Last month Boeing issued this small statement in its quarterly results and market realities report: “While our 767 and 747 rates remain unchanged, in light of the current market dynamics and outlook, we’ll complete production of the iconic 747 in 2022. Our customer commitment does not end at delivery, and we’ll continue to support 747 operations and sustainment well into the future.” – Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. In case you missed it, the big commercial airplane market is changing, at least for the next few years.

In 2014 Lufthansa was delivered the 1500th Boeing 747; however, the development of more efficient twin engine aircraft has helped decrease the demand for the biggest commercial jet – not to mention recent travel reductions caused by the pandemic. In case you need a bit more info on the final version of the Boeing 747’s, the – 8I, here are some specs and data:

  • Seats: (3-class) approx. 410
  • Range: 14,815 km (8000 nm)
  • Length: 76.4 m (250 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan: 68.5 m (224 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 19.4 m (63 ft 6 in)
  • Engine: 4 (GEnx-2B)

Further,  for a better idea of the historical family tree, there have been 6 variants that were developed over the 50 years the jet has been flying: (747-100, 747-200B, 747-300, 747-400, 747-400ERF, and 747-8I).

  • Weight (Model Dependent) – Weight Empty (358,000 lbs. to 6100,000 lbs.)
  • Max Take-Off Weight (Model Dependent) – (735,000 to 970,000 lbs.)
  • Total Number Manufactured (To Date -1558 )

(Editor’s Note -The links attached here should get you the additional info you need – How Many Variants Of The Boeing 747 Have Been Made? – Simple Flying and here – Boeing 747)

Face it, the Boeing 747 changed air travel in many ways: It was the first twin aisle/wide-body commercial airline aircraft, it’s size enabled a lot more freight to be transported on each flight, and it caused almost every big commercial airport to be increased to accommodate it and the resulting traffic increase. When it went into service in the early 1970’s, air travel grew exponentially worldwide. One retired airline employee told IFExpress that the Boeing 747 cut airline passenger flight costs in half! In a sense, the 52 year old plane created the new world of flying that we experience and see today. In fact, we asked a retired Boeing Executive and serious aviation buff to tell us a little about the aircraft’s history, and here is what Bob Bogash told IFExpress:

“The 747 was ‘the airplane that brought inexpensive air travel to the masses.’ That’s what you see in so many write-ups about the 747. I don’t agree. The 707 and DC-8 brought inexpensive air travel – by jet to the masses a decade earlier. The 727/737/DC-9 brought the speed and comfort of jets to first intermediate, and then shorter range routes. There were millions of people flying thousands of jet transports before the 747 came along. Rather, the 747 solved the problem – then thought to be a temporary solution – of the historic progression of transport airplanes – ever bigger, ever faster. The SST was supposed to be the solution to the “faster” part of that history. But, of course, it was stillborn. The question at the time the 747 was developed would be how to go “bigger.

Both the 707 and the DC-8 (and later the 727/737/DC-9) solved that problem the same way Constellations and DC-4/-6/-7’s did – by getting longer. By the time Douglas introduced the DC-8-60 series (a 37 ft stretch), that airplane had gotten seriously “long.” (Ever ridden in the back of one???)

Boeing had a problem (similar to the current 737 series) in that the 707 had short landing gear (saves a lot of weight and makes the airplane easier to work on while on the ramp.) A DC-8 stretch was not in the cards for the 707 without a major redesign. Plus, the main instigator for bigger was, as always, Pan Am. They didn’t want an even longer single aisle tube and were thinking “bigger” – as in MUCH BIGGER. Like Double the size. Pan Am’s proposed solution was a double-decker.

Drawing on the technology of their failed USAF C-5 competition, Boeing thought WIDE, instead of HIGH, and eventually the twin-aisle airplane was created and Pan Am bought into the design. Eventually, the twin-aisle became the standard for numerous medium to longer range transports. Of course, with double the seats, ticket prices came down and pax loads went up, hence more and more people flew – the factoid promulgated by so many writers.

If you want to know why the 747 has a hump on the front, well it’s so the pilot can sit on his wallet! Actually, it’s because the 747 was viewed as an interim airplane pending the arrival of the SST, and so freighter capability was built in from the start. A hinged nose allowed straight in loading of intermodal containers, and so the cockpit had to be bumped up to provide clearance. It’s interesting that in the twilight of its years, the 747 continues to prosper as a freighter.”

Another good Boeing 747 history book was written about the 747 ‘big boss’ and he was the man behind the airplane. Joe Sutter spent his career and tech life at Boeing and, as many say, he was considered the ‘father’ of the Boeing 747. In his book “747”, he tells a lot about the development and history of the plane, the company, and events you will not find anywhere else. Poignantly, he talks about the program and his many meetings, thoughts, and deeds that determined the first flying model. His viewpoints on the program were something that were not immediately obvious during the production program kickoff, but important none-the-less: I am often referred to as the father of the 747. If people want to call me that, that’s fine as long as they recognize I wasn’t alone. The 747 has three fathers, the other two being Juan Trippe of Pan American World Airways and Boeing’s Bill Allen. Trippe pushed hard for a high-capacity airlines in the 1960’s. Bill Allen shared his friend’s vision and had the courage to launch the 747 despite a long list of very good reasons not too. If it weren’t for them, history would have taken a different course.From our perspective, this book was one of the most interesting Boeing 747 development stories published because it details a history and if you find aircraft technical development interesting, this one really relays the technical story by the engineering father. Here is the info on Joe’s book: 747, Joe Sutter, with Joe Spenser, Smithsonian Books.

Logically, such a game-changing, iconic aircraft had an impact on inflight entertainment as well. IFExpress reached out to John Courtright of SIE Inc. and long time IFEC aficionado about his thoughts on the significance of the 747 to IFE. Here is what he had to say:

“The introduction of the 747 into passenger service was a high-water mark for long distance travel for a much bigger mass market than offered before.  The 747 spanned the IFEC history timeline from overhead film and videotape exhibition to digital delivery of content to the passenger seats.   The 747 airframe offered different technical challenges as entertainment technologies improved.

Recall that the initial 747-100 and 747-200 aircraft came out prior to the so-called digital revolution.  The video systems were 16mm film and the challenge was primarily structural because the concern was where to install the projector systems in each of the cabins.  Due to the size of the projector, the 747 Upper Deck had the least amount of overhead clearance to squeeze an Inflight Motion Pictures or Transcom (later Sony).  The film canisters needed to be installed close to the projectors and there were hilarious incidents of the film breaking or coming off their spool and spilling out into the cabin area.  Note that it was not hilarious for the flight attendants.

The advent of Beta and VHS video tape technologies removed the film storage and feeding problem but did not change a thing when it came to projector installation.  The Beta tape machines, promoted by Transcom (later Sony) and the VHS tape players, provided by Avicom did allow the introduction of CRT  displays to be installed in tricky corners of the 747 such as bulkhead locations or in the forward part of the upper deck.  This was pre-LCD display technology so the CRTs were bulky and required maintenance on a regular basis.

In the mid ’80s, in-seat IFE systems were introduced by Avicom, Airvision, Sony Transcom (now Burrana), among others and the 747 presented a very big challenge: SIZE.  The 747 could hold 400+ passengers and the sheer size of the aircraft made it a big challenge from a  distributed processing viewpoint.  The initial x86 processors initially could handle only 6-to-8 rows of passenger IFE.   Latency and multi-channel processing was rudimentary to say the least but still an improvement over the overhead IFE systems.  As processor speeds increased (486, Pentium, and above), the in-seat IFE service quality elevated the passenger experience tremendously with more channels and lower latency.  In effect, the 747 was the impetus and challenge required to establish a whole new level of individual passenger entertainment technologies.  So, as you see, size does matter.”

Sadly, as we noted earlier, the plane’s life is coming to an end, so wrote the CNN folks: “For the first time in 48 years, you can’t buy a ticket on a US airline to fly on a Boeing 747. On January 3 (2018), Delta Air Lines Flight 9771 touched down in Marana, Arizona, an arid boneyard for stored and cannibalized jetliners. A three-hour-and-33-minute journey from Atlanta. The last of the airline’s 16 jumbo Boeing 747-400s flew to a desert retirement, ending travel operations by passenger airlines in the United States. Both Delta and United Airlines have been saying goodbye to the jumbo for months. A final domestic revenue flight, a last international trip, a final charter. Those last trips became more of a farewell tour than a formal end.”

And finally, we note that The Economic Times wrote: “The Boeing 747’s slow descent into retirement from commercial service just got steeper with British Airways’ announcement Friday it would be pulling the jumbo jet from the skies as the coronavirus pandemic forces it to cut back operations and cut costs. BA’s announcement follows moves by a number of other airlines that have retired their 747s and their Airbus A380, another jumbo-sized four-engine jet made by Boeing’s European rival. The fact the planes have four engines means they consume more fuel, which means they can cost more to operate and cause more pollution if not full.” And that pretty much says it all!

From a personal travel perspective, the retirement and end of production for the 747 is bittersweet. The IFExpress team has logged many international flight hours onboard this game changing aircraft, and it is by far our favorite jetliner. To this day, we will always try to select an international route that still operates the Queen of the Sky. In the aircraft’s infancy it epitomized the romance and allure of air travel – all that space, the inflight lounges –  it made you feel like you didn’t just purchase a seat, you purchased a spacious environment and an experience that happened to take you to exotic destinations that you only had dreamed of traveling to or read about. Even as LOPA’s changed, and seat configurations became more dense and seat pitch continued to drop, the 747 still somehow remained less-cramped than other jetliners. Perhaps, it was because it was like returning to a well known, old friend that you knew would reliably transport you from point A to point B. There has always been a sense of nostalgia affiliated with walking down the jet-way to board a 747, harkening back to the glory days of air travel. There may be sleeker, more efficient, higher performance aircraft out there but the stately, classic 747 will always have a special place in our hearts long after production has ceased and the last commercial flight has flown. Thanks for all the wonderful memories.

Here a couple more interesting sites on the Boeing 747:
Boeing ending production of 747; 50 years since first passenger flight – Business Insider

Boeing to stop production of 747 jumbo jet in 2022 – CBS News

5 Things You Likely Never Knew About Boeing’s 747

Boeing 747: Queen of the Skies for 50 years – CNET

The Amazing Story of the Boeing 747 in 12 Photos

Boeing 747s Still Use Floppy Disks to Get Critical Software Updates


Lufthansa Systems

Lufthansa Systems announced the migration of Eurowings, a longstanding Lido Flight 4D customer, to the cloud delivery platform Global Aviation Cloud. Going forward, the Lufthansa Group’s point-to-point airline will use the flight planning solution from Lufthansa Systems as a cloud service. The cloud environment enables Eurowings to optimize routes in a more flexible and reliable way. The integration of services into the Global Aviation Cloud was developed specifically to meet the needs and security standards of airlines, particularly now as they face increased complexity due to the global pandemic.

Eurowings is the first airline within the Lufthansa Group to use the new technology and drive digitalization in its flight operations. “We are very pleased with the enormous increase in processing speed the migration has brought. At the same time, operations have always remained stable and reliable,” said Timo Rapp, Head of Integrated Operations Control Center (IOCC) at Eurowings. “It was a very smooth cutover process as Lufthansa Systems was very efficient in providing all the necessary support required for the transition. Even in these extremely difficult times due to the current pandemic, pushing this migration with high priority was worth the effort.”

In addition to the Lido product suite for flight planning and navigation, Lufthansa Systems has integrated its solutions for ground operations (NetLine), inflight entertainment (BoardConnect) and finance management (SIRAX®) into the Global Aviation Cloud. Making the shift to cloud services has proven a major challenge in the aviation industry, but Lufthansa Systems has completely overhauled its software architecture to accelerate the development of on-demand services. Lufthansa Systems has created a forward-looking infrastructure based on various technologies such as Kubernetes and Terraform, which deliver key administrative, operational and technological benefits. Today, more than 16 products and applications from Lufthansa Systems are cloud-ready and over 50 customer environments have already been set up. Especially in the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud services enhance airlines’ ability to adapt to a changing market environment.

Cloud solutions no longer require applications, systems and resources to run locally on a physical server as specific software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are available. With a growing number of accessible data centers operating in almost all regions around the world, Lufthansa Systems can provide its services in close proximity to customer sites, which enables faster data transmission. “The Global Aviation Cloud increases the flexibility, scalability and security of our applications,” said Dr. Thomas Wittmann, CEO of Lufthansa Systems. “We work hand in glove with our customers from implementation to management, ensuring that we are continuously innovating and paving the way for a more digital and smarter future of airline operations.”

There are more than 7,500 commercial aircraft worldwide operating with Lido Flight 4D. The flight planning solution calculates the most suitable route for each flight based on all relevant flight data, such as weather conditions and the current airspace situation, fully integrated notices to airmen (NOTAMs) and any further restrictions that may apply. Implementing the solution enables flight dispatchers to react faster and work more efficiently. After the preparations for the Global Aviation Cloud were concluded by the end of 2019, five Lido Flight 4D customers upgraded to the cloud service. Despite the challenging situation caused by the pandemic, Lufthansa Systems plans to implement the majority of service transitions by the end of the year.


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