On Tuesday, Boeing announced that Atlas Air, a worldwide cargo operator, had placed an order for four Boeing 747-8 Freighters. The Chicago-based planemaker also shared the bittersweet news that these four jets would be the last to roll off the 747 production line.
In the announcement, Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplane division said, “Atlas Air began operations 28 years ago with a single 747 and it is fitting that they should receive the last 747 production airplanes, ensuring that the ‘Queen of the Skies’ plays a significant role in the global air cargo market for decades to come.”
Boeing’s 747-8 was first introduced in 2011, as a quieter and more economical variant compared to its 747-400 predecessor. The fuselage was also stretched, allowing for more seats and cargo capacity.
Despite the initial success of the 747, the -8 variant never became a hit with airlines. There are roughly 140 operating worldwide, with the majority in the freighter version. Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa are the only commercial carriers flying the latest -8 variant in a passenger configuration (though most are grounded currently due to the pandemic).
Altogether, 1,560 aircraft have been produced since launching the jumbo jet more than 50 years ago. When the final four 747s roll out of the factory in 2022, the 747 production line will close for good.
Many observers, particularly aviation enthusiasts worldwide, will be saddened by Tuesday’s news, despite the fact that it was a long time coming.