back to article End of an era as the last 747 rolls off the production line

An aviation era has come to an end as Boeing's last 747 has taxied out of the Everett, Washington factory, punctuating the jumbo jet's 54-year production run. The final craft, a 747-8 freighter, will be delivered to airplane-cargo biz Atlas Air after final tests in early 2023, Boeing revealed. While the 1,574th 747 will be the …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It's always over budget

    You'd think that, after more than a century of designing and building airplanes, Boeing would have a better idea of how to plan a budget.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: It's always over budget

      ...Boeing would have a better idea of how to plan a budget.

      But they know how to do it. They have perfected going over budget planning. Just like many other big boys.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: It's always over budget

        Bean counters... What a strange and warped dimension they live in, toss in the right manager, and we have a recipe for Twitter.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: It's always over budget

        But they know how to do it. They have perfected going over budget planning. Just like many other big boys. .... b0llchit

        And there you have it, in all of its naked glory ....... another one of those American Dream Century Projects to program and decimate populations with? .....

    2. Annihilator

      Re: It's always over budget

      Na, they’ve perfected it.

      Project Manager “This plane will cost £10m and take a year”

      Boss “That’s too expensive and too long, make it £7m and 9 months”

      PM “Ok”

      … 6 months later…

      PM: “We’ve experience some issue, it’ll take an extra £3m and will be delayed by 3 months”

      CEO “Urgh, you guys are always over budget and late, but I can’t possibly abort it now due to the sunk costs”

      Projects would never happen if the true cost was known upfront. Every team secretly knows this.

      1. First Light

        Re: It's always over budget

        In a different field, SC Justice Sonia Sotomayor experienced this as a partner at a law firm. She told a client the actual cost of a proposed litigation, the client went elsewhere because another firm promised to do it for less than half that cost. Except there was always another motion, or a new stage of the case and it ended up costing the client about the amount she had said anyway. The client returned to work with her after that because they appreciated her candour.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: It's always over budget

          Had a point where we needed for work purposes a cease and desist letter written. Then the boss found we had one that had been written before but it needed adapting to the current circumstances. The boss planned to have a stab at rewriting it and went to a local solicitor to find out the cost to get it given the once over. The solicitor said it would be £300 to do this and make sure it was watertight legally.

          So letter rewritten boss goes back to solicitor who now says £600 because of having to deal with the follow up letters. Boss says fat chance and asked if there was anyone in our office who knows a good but cheap lawyer. I said a mate of mine is a lawyer and owes me a favour so will do it for nowt. Boss is super impressed when it comes back with corrections including spelling mistakes he’s made. The letter goes out and we hear nothing more from the person who was being difficult.

          Boss says we must get something for my mate so buys a reasonably decent bottle of Champagne for him. My mate who is a wine bore is extremely pleased because it is he says a really good bottle and if there’s any more work please let him know.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: It's always over budget

        In this case it's a government contract so it goes more like:

        Project Manager “This plane will cost $10M and take a year”

        Boss "Ok, we'll ask the government for $30M and tell them it'll be done in a year, and then when it's still not done in four years, we'll ask for another $30M. Then a few years after that, the senator who OK'd the budget increase will get a nice cushy job with us"

      3. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: It's always over budget

        As I have mentioned before, the standardised, modern version of this requires a Project Approval Board and has a process as follows:

        1) Produce business case and plan for project that will take n months and cost x.

        2) Take same to Project Approval Board.

        3) Get sent away with flea in ear to improve payback / cut costs / change font / whatever.

        4) Take revised version to next month's Project Approval Board.

        5) Iterate 3 and 4 m times.

        6) Project approved.

        Presto. A project which costs x and takes n months that you now have (n - m) months to do it in and (x - ${large_random_number}) to do it with.

        I've often said that a really good PM is one who can come up with valid and believable reasons for time and/or cost overrun without casting aspersions on the parentage of the Project Approval Board members.

    3. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: It's always over budget

      Summary: Blame the customer (government), not the business.

      The mention of "over budget/behind schedule" referenced a government contract (new and/or improved Air Force One(s)).

      All my career work the last 15+ years has been gov contracts (minus a small bit of R&D), and the general rule is "hurry up and wait" at Every Single Step. Wait for the RFP; then the selection; then start of contract; then final requirements; then answers to specific technical questions (if you EVER get answers); not to mention the customer changing requirements/direction, reversing progress and checking for delta impacts. The customer wants full oversight, but this causes the delays in question at every stage of the design/development, prototyping, testing, and production, and since time is money (we don't work for free, not even unpaid overtime since extra hours are not allowed) it blows the budget up big time.

      Our proposals are a good estimate of how quick/cheap we could do it if given all the right data/info up front and left alone to work. But no... that's not how it goes in reality.

      1. Horst U Rodeinon

        Re: It's always over budget

        Don't forget the cockamamie purchasing regulations.

        I was lead engineer on an adjunct program to update six mission planning computers for an aircraft systems upgrade back in the 80's. Buying the new computers (from the same manufacturer as the one's being replaced) and revising the software were fairly straightforward. Because the computers were to be used in a normal data processing environment, no MILSPEC issues were involved. Then our military customer decided they wanted to be able to perform "organic maintenance," that is, do it themselves.

        The computer manufacturer's Maintenance Kit, consisted of extender boards and some ribbon cables,, the cost was about US$5,000 per kit. We told our customer to buy the kits themselves. They replied that the computer maker was our vendor/subcontractor and they were not allowed to go around us to purchase the kits even with our explicit permission.

        We replied, OK, do a no cost contract change to add the kits and we'll pass them through at cost. They replied we had to go through an entire Contract Change Proposal then add the cost of the CCP plus all required markups for labor, overhead, and profit. Those factors were specified in the original contract.

        In the end, the government paid $15,000 per maintenance kit, and they lie about who runs up contract costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's always over budget

          Had a new building going up. By the time we were told about it, the first fit was about to begin. We noticed some of the cables were the wrong spec. We asked to change the spec - only to be told that it would cost more in legal fees to change the spec then the value of the cable.

          We had a quiet word with the contractors and told them if they installed nothing we'd sign off the cable install. Contractor loved getting paid (both time & materials) for no work and we avoided having to pay another contractor to pull out the wrong cables.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "New and/or improved Air Force One(s)"

        Common mistake.

        "Air Force One" is the Mission Call Sign for any aircraft on which the US President is aboard. Care to hazard a guess what the mission call sign is for the Vice President?

        The Modified B747 has the Model Number VC-27. The primary structural modification which made it a "military" airplane is the addition of In-Flight Refueling (IFR) capability.

        Non seq: Following modification, the aircraft had the IFR inlet to the main fuel tank capped off while it underwent FAA re-certification as a B747. Immediately following those tests, the USAF reconnected the line from the receptacle to the fuel tank and the next flight was validating the In-Flight Refueling from a KC-135.

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          Re: "New and/or improved Air Force One(s)"

          The task of FAA certification wasn't delegated to a Boeing engineer to sign off, and not be notified of fundamental changes to its function for management reasons until after the fact?

          They must want the passengers to survive.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    My first flight

    In March of '71 I had a flight on a TWA 747 from O'Hare to LAX. What a different time and place it was for passenger aviation. That's when they had gift bags! Playing cards, Captains Wings, coloring book etc, etc... I didn't get to visit the cockpit, grown men naked make me nervous, always have...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My first flight

      They still have gift bags for kids, at least on Air France. Even give them "diplomas" on their first flight.

      1. Outski

        Re: My first flight

        Same on MAS

        1. Outski

          Re: My first flight

          And Emirates too, come to that

    2. Stork Silver badge

      Re: My first flight

      Ticket prices in real terms were different too

    3. Alistair

      Re: My first flight

      In 1973, Lisbon to T.O., I got 35 minutes in the cockpit on Air Iberia 747. (was not yet a teen) Interesting point, I still have (somewhere) the wings and the little portfolio they handed out to the kids they brought into the cockpit.

  3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    I'm genuinely surprised that they were still producing the 747.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      You have to remember that the current 747 relates to the original 747 in about the same way the latest Ford Escort relates to the original Ford Escort. Boeing put a lot of effort into keeping that pretence going as otherwise they would have to do full certification on every model instead of relying on 'grandfathered' approvals. The 737MAX is a perfect example of why that grandfathering should not be so freely applied

      1. Hairy Spod

        ...great analogy, you do know that Ford stopped making the Escort almost 20 years ago don't you!?

        1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

          1. Hairy Spod

            except that's a totally different car with a name badge slapped on it, the last 747s avionics may have been updated and elements of its structure tweaked, but its still very much a 747

          2. jollyboyspecial


            The original escort was from about 1967 to 1980 (if you don't count the short lived 100E Escort)

            Then there was the completely different FWD variant from 1980 to 2002 (although the the 2002 variant looked very different to the 1980 variant they were still largely the same car)

            Then there was the US variant which throughout the 80s was broadly the same as the european car. But in 1990 was replaced with a Mazda derived car

            Following on from the Escort there was the Focus again a totally different car with nothing really in common with the earlier Escorts. In some markets however ford have continued to use the Escort name on what is pretty much a Focus - which is what you linked.

            This is pretty much how the use of names in the car world goes. The badge gets applied to whatever. The same car might have totally different names in different territories and two completely different cars may carry the same name in different territories.

            The aviation world does not work like that at all. This final 747 is very much an evolution of the original. It may have totally new avionics, different engines, etc but it's still a very similar airframe

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Boeing were even pushing to sell a composite wing variant of the 747, similar to the tech on the Dreamliner. But 4 engines just isn't the requirement anymore in passenger transport, where the mass requirement is relatively low and fuel efficiency king because of high operating hours. Existing 747 Freighter conversions will be around for some time to come; and even then, if we're talking parcels and airmail there's no reason that other 2-engined airframes wouldn't make sense. The long airframe of an A350-1000 for example offers an awful lot of volume; not that far behind the 747 really. Acquisition cost compared to a 20-year old 747 airframe is in a different league too. Is the extra fuel cost worth the extra capex?

      If you need heavy or very large items lifting, then something more specialised is the way forwards - or - waiting 3 months for your container ship is more likely.

      Bruce Dickinson talked at length in his book about the Iron Maiden tour 747. Worth a read for that even if you don't care for the music!

      1. Zolko Silver badge


        there's no reason that other 2-engined airframes wouldn't make sens

        yes, there is one: the opening nose. No other aircraft has that, not even the A380, and it's a HUGE advantage for large or long products.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 666

          the opening nose. No other aircraft has that

          C-5 Galaxy?

          1. nobody who matters

            Re: 666

            And there are how many civilian operated Galaxy??

          2. Apollo-Soyuz 1975

            Re: 666

            And the Antonov 124.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: 666

              From news reports Russia blew up the Kyiv Antonov factory, so if you want one you'll have to deal with Aviastar-SP, a Russian business...

  4. simonlb Silver badge

    Queen Of The Skies

    Always has been, and always will be.

    Have a pint in celebration! ---->

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    First time I went on a long haul flight was on a Boeing 747 to Canada in 2013. It's the only time I've been on one, with the other times being on a Airbus 380, Boeing 777, and another new Airbus thing that while it was nice inside just didn't really interest me that much.

    The 747, as a kid, was a jumbo jet. And when you finally get to do something you've thought about since you were a child, it's like a religious experience going on one.

    But nothing lasts forever, the memories will.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Growing up with an IBM parent who got sent to the US on a regular basis I've flown on a LOT of 747s and there is something very cool about the 4 engines spooling up at takeoff but the 777 and A380 are just so much more refined. I last flew on a 747 in 2017 and it sounded like a bucket of spare nuts and bolts.

      I do not miss the days of smoking sections. One trip we ended up second row from the back :(

      1. jmch Silver badge

        "I do not miss the days of smoking sections"

        'smoking sections' that are not physically enclosed with a dedicated air circulation/filtration systems are like having 'peeing sections' in swimming pools.

        1. mmonroe

          Smoking sections

          I flew Air India once, on a 747. First class had these really beautiful hosties. Non-smoking the hosties weren't bad looking. In smoking they were dogs.

          This was back when the in-flight movie was a from a projector in the ceiling. With great ceremony, a steward turned the picture around on the bulkhead to reveal the screen, while another lowered the projector with it's red, green and blue outputs. He switched in on and smoke came out of it. No inflight movie that day.

          Just before landing, they also used to walk down the aisle holding four cans of aerosol disinfectant, which made everybody cough.

          Travellers today, with the back of seat personal screens, featuring games, movies and audio programs, don't know they were born!

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: Smoking sections

            And the strange plastic tube 'headphones'. I was always too short to see over the seat and see the movie. Now I'm too tall to fit between my seat and the one in front.... sigh....

          2. Irony Deficient

            Travellers today, with the back of seat personal screens,

            Blurgh. On the rare occasions when I fly, I bring a washcloth/flannel with me to cover up the screen in the seat in front of me, so that I can read in peace.

      2. Outski

        The A380 always looks like it has a massive smile on its 'face', I love them :o)

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          I thought they were cool.

          But I was sat upstairs on it, and I could see out the window that we're taking off, and it all felt very weird. The sensations weren't the same to me, and it just felt a bit off for me.

        2. sitta_europea Silver badge

          "The A380 always looks like it has a massive smile on its 'face', I love them :o)"

          First time I saw one in the air was before it was unwrapped for the public when I happened to be driving by Toulouse when they happened to be doing the first flight. I had no idea that it was going to happen, just lucky in a trainspotting sort of way. I thought it looked weird, but I'll grant you it does have a sort of guppy-like charm. And how many other passenger aircraft can boast of never having had a fatality?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            how many other passenger aircraft can boast of never having had a fatality

            A320, CRJ700/900/1000, 787, A350, A340

            1. Altrux

              Not the A320, surely? Plenty of crashes of those, inevitable since they've built so many thousands of them. 48 hull losses and 160 incidents. Which is still pretty good after 35 years and thousands in service.

            2. MiguelC Silver badge

              I think you meant the A220, not the A320....

            3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

              QF32 minus Richard Champion de Crespigny and his team was gone for all money.

              (Planes without pilots tend to crash, but YKWIM)

          2. Altrux

            Quite a few actually, including the A340 and A350...

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      I also remember my first Jumbo Jet flight, I was thrilled to finally to get on one. I just wish that I had had the privilege to use the upper deck ;-)

      I also remember my first and only flight on an A380, strange but I didn't have that same feeling. It didn't have the mystique associated with the Jumbo..

      I presume that this also means that Air Force One will be changed to something less aesthetically appealing...

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        You didn't always need privilege to get to climb the stairs... My first encounter with a 747 was flying Cathay Pacific fron London to Hong Kong in the mid 80's, and Cathay had decided for some reason to make use of the upper deck as a rather exclusive feeling cabin for non-smoking cattle class passengers. So there I am, first time on a 747, heading upstairs into a rather cosy 3+3 layout cabin more akin to a regional airliner than the Queen of the Skies. Being sat so far ahead of the wings, it made for one of the quietest flights I've ever been on, and the unrestricted views out the window made the approach into Kai Tak even more memorable than it would usually be. Not a bad way to spend your 13th birthday...

        My second encounter was on the way home a month later courtesy of Singapore Airlines. No upper deck experience this time around sadly, and having to slum it again at the back end of the plane with the rest of the cattle wasn't nearly as pleasant an experience despite the quality of the in-flight service (ah yes, the good old days of commercial aviation where it wasn't a race to the bottom to trim costs everywhere, and where even economy passengers were treated with a bit of respect), though being in such a large plane whos main cabin seemed to stretch out forever in all directions was still very much a thrill compared to bumbling around Europe on short haul 737 and 146 operated flights.

        Since then though, each subsequent encounter has been a spiral downhill - the tired old cargo jumbo that had been partially refitted for passenger use and pressed into service by the charter airline that got us to and from Florida one summer was a particular "delight", and my last flights on the big old bird were on some equally tired British Airways examples to and from Australia about 20 years ago.

        I'm pleased I got to experience it back in a time when it was still a relatively new design and in some cases not long out of the factory, and also at a time when commercial aviation was still something of a luxury, because those first couple of flights were genuinely special and gave me a better appreciation for what sort of an impact the 747 would have had when it was first introduced, than had all of my experiences been with those later flights.

        1. First Light

          I have to do around one long-haul flight a year these days, for personal reasons. I save up all my euros and pay for business class. Economy long-haul is just too miserable. I come out of it feeling like I've been beaten up.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        When they put the contract out to tender Airbus declined because of requirements to manufacture in the USA (or something like that). The USAF also want 4 engines for redundancy which limits the available designs of aircraft.

        1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

          >> The USAF also want 4 engines for redundancy which limits the available designs of aircraft.

          They are going to have a problem in the future then, everything now is 2 engined

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            They are going to have a problem in the future then, everything now is 2 engined

            That’s why they went with the 747-8 this time and I believe have a maintenance agreement with Boeing for parts going forwards. The reason they were keen to replace the VC-25A is because in part, of the cost of keeping them in the air. These are essentially 747-200 planes although heavily modified for the USAF. There aren’t many of those still in service and they’re all carrying freight. Making parts for very few planes is expensive. So despite these being the best maintained 747s in the world with comparatively very low hours they aren’t cheap to keep flying as a result.

            Hence why a replacement was sought and i believe a deal on avoid a similar situation to the one they have now.

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            They're still flying the B-52, I'm pretty sure they could keep operating the 747 if they really wanted to.

            I'm sure Boeing would love the ongoing maintenance contracts too.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              They're still flying the B-52, I'm pretty sure they could keep operating the 747 if they really wanted to.

              I'm sure Boeing would love the ongoing maintenance contracts too.

              Yup they could keep operating the presidential ride as a -200 but like the other person says, that’s only two planes. If they’re trying to cut costs then it’s probably not cost effective to keep them running. There are over 75 B52s still flying not just two. So making parts/upgrades for them will benefit from economies of scale which doing so for two -200 would probably not.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I will miss the 747 for a number of reasons. When I was much younger I flew on the upper deck in economy and it was amazing. In an exit row it was really brilliant because of the extra leg room, fewer seats upstairs etc. More recently I have been lucky enough to fly First Class in the nose of a 747 and that was something else entirely. There was nothing in front of me (row 1) at all except the weather radar in the nose.There wasn’t anyone going back and forth past me to the galley or even the toilets. That was the most peaceful and quiet cabin I’ve been in as a result. I've also been in First Class on the A380 (someone else was paying in both cases) tand compared to the 747 it was a lot busier because the toilets are at the front and there was also crew going to the cockpit occasionally.

  6. GlenP Silver badge

    I've been on a few 747s over the years, better than a DC10 but not as good as the later Boeing and Airbus planes!

    I even got to sit upstairs crossing the pond as BA had a few with cattle class up there in a 3 - 3 pattern, Due to the cramped space they only used the window and aisle seats, and we had a member of the cabin crew to ourselves so service was good. The only downside was you had to brush past the projector screen (Titanic was on) to use the toilet.

  7. Alan J. Wylie

    The software on a 747 is updated from floppy disc.

    My comment yesterday in the El Reg article Longstanding bug in Linux kernel floppy handling fixed linking to an article from 2020

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The software on a 747 is updated from floppy disc.

      Little surprised you didn't link to:

      'Last man standing in the floppy disk business' reckons his company has 4 years left

  8. Annihilator


    And Boeing will of course destroy/decommission the tooling, meaning in the future we wont easily be able to rebuild a 747, and in 60 years time the moon landing conspiracy nuts will claim it’s because the 747 never existed…

  9. Electronics'R'Us

    From a different era

    When Boeing was an engineering company.

    Everything up to the original 777 and derivatives were properly engineered aircraft. The 777 is a fly by wire aircraft (I have worked with the flight control computers).

    The team on that aircraft were real sticklers for proper QA (as they should be).

    Now they are just bean counters.

    1. Altrux

      Re: From a different era

      The 777 was indeed an incredibly successful programme. And they've not managed one since, really. The 787 was a fiasco (got there in the end, perhaps), the 737 MAX, the 777X, etc. Yep, the engineers have been sidelined and look what happens!

      1. Marty McFly Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: From a different era

        I flew on a 737-MAX9 for the first time yesterday. Decent bird, I had no problems with it.

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: From a different era

          Your flight may have been uneventful, but that doesn't make it a decent bird. When looking into who to fly with earlier this year, part of the process was seeing if any of the airlines under consideration had any of the wretched things in their fleets, as that would have earned them instant exclusion...

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "the last 747 rolls off the production line"

    It's a pity. It may be a 'legacy' design, but at least 747 didn't tend to dive into the ocean under automatic control.

    1. sgp

      Re: "the last 747 rolls off the production line"

      The Air France Airbus wasn't under automatic control when it was put into a stall and plummeted from the sky. It was one of the children of the magenta who managed that stunt.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: "the last 747 rolls off the production line"

        "The Air France Airbus wasn't under automatic control"

        Who said "Airbus". I was thinking of the 737 Max which was and did (twice).

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: "the last 747 rolls off the production line"

          One of which crashed into a sea, the other of which crashed on land - you can see why someone might therefore presume you were talking about one of the crashes which *did* occur into an ocean...

  11. Adam Trickett

    Crossed the pond a few times on the,

    Crossed the pond a few times on various ages of 747. Much prefer a modern Airbus but the 747 was a lot better than the DC-10 I flew on across the US once - that was horrible.

    Last time I was on a 747-400, was across the pond with Virgin between Xmas and New Year several years ago. That was like fling in a cutlery drawer, everything rattled and jangled, very unpleasant flight.

    Bonne voyage...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scrap Meccano?

    Has anyone else looked at the photos of this thing and thought it looks like it’s been built out of scrap bits of Meccano?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Scrap Meccano?

      That's what they look like straight off the assembly line. The new owner will get it all painted over.

  13. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I’ve done the Oz to UK kangaroo hop over 20 times return

    While the 747 was very good, especially up top, the 380 beat it in every way.

    The 380 is so spacious and so very quiet. Business on a 380, say with Emirates, is sublime.

    The 777 and 787 are OK but I always choose the 380 when given the choice.

  14. BPontius

    No other aircraft has the glorious profile when landing like the 747 does. I will miss seeing this magnificent aircraft.

    The A380 is an amazing piece of engineering. I love the shape of the wings looking at the A380 head on, it almost looks like those wings will come to life like an eagle and lift the plane into the skies all by them selves. Never flown in either aircraft, but love watching both.

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