The last jumbo 747 is about to roll off the Boeing assembly line

The last jumbo 747 is about to roll off the Boeing assembly line
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CNN Business

After 53 years and more than 1,570 aircraft, the last Boeing 747 will roll off the assembly line in Washington state on Tuesday, en route to serve as a cargo plane.

The once groundbreaking jumbo jet, with the distinctive bulge on the second deck, is perhaps the most remarkable and popular aircraft Boeing has ever built. It was even big enough to carry the space shuttle from the runways in California to its launch site in Florida. And it’s ready to launch a new kind of Virgin Orbit spacecraft as soon as next week, after taking him high under his wing.

The Boeing 747 in 1969. (Photo by: Collection Bernard Crochet/Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The 747 was once the choice of the rich and glamorous, and even royalty. Many films, including the 1973 James Bond classic “Live and Let Die”, featured the plane or sets made to resemble the first-class lounge on its upper level. The 747 still functions as Air Force One, and two already assembled planes are currently working on transforming them into the next generation of the presidential plane. Those planes will not be delivered for at least four years due to delays.

Other than that use, the days of the 747 as an airliner are almost completely behind us. Airlines have moved away from fuel-guzzling four-engine planes like the 747. Rival Airbus

he dropped his own jumbo split-level planethe A380, in 2019.

Boeing had signaled in 2020 that it would stop building the 747, even in its freighter form, as customers bought the more fuel-efficient 777 freighter or saved money by refitting aging 747 airliners as freighters. It has not yet announced plans for the factory in Everett, Wash., where it has been building the 747, but hopes to keep it open.

Boeing has not built a passenger version of the plane since it delivered the last one to Korean Airlines in 2017. This last 747 will go to Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings.

, which will operate the aircraft for the Swiss logistics company Kuehne+Nagel. Tuesday’s final plane will fly to another Boeing facility shop for paint and other final details, before being delivered to Atlas early next year.

Today, only 44 passenger versions of the 747 remain in service, according to aviation analysis firm Cirium. More than half of them – 25 – are flown by lufthansa.

That total is down from the more than 130 in service as passenger jets at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic crippled demand for air travel, especially on international routes where 747s and other airframes were primarily used. width. Most of those passenger versions of the planes were grounded for the first few months of the pandemic and never returned to service.

But there are still 314,747 freighters in use, according to Cirium, many of which were initially used as passenger planes before being refurbished as freighters.

“The 747-8 is an incredibly capable aircraft, with a capability that is unmatched by any other freighter in production,” UPS said in 2020, when Boeing signaled it would. stop building soon the jet. “With a maximum payload of 307,000 lbs., we use them on long, high-volume routes, connecting Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East.”

Boeing delivered the first 747 passenger planes in December 1969 to two airlines that no longer exist: TWA and Pan Am. Delta Airlines

it was the last US airline to fly a passenger version of the plane, also in 2017. That was the last year the last US 747 passenger flights were flown, both by Delta and United.

— drew huge crowds of airplane fans, a testament to its enduring popularity.

– CNN’s Jackie Wattles contributed to this report

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