The Chart:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1501, First Flight

I'm still annoyed that I missed line 1500's first flight, but below are shots of line 1501 (RC671) taking off this afternoon. Line 1501 was thought to be for Silk Way, but it looks like it isn't.

Here's an article on the 747 with some interesting information scattered throughout. Lufthansa seems to think Boeing isn't trying to sell the 747-8I hard enough. The demise of the passenger 747 is really accelerating. At my local airport alone, over the last year we've lost Air Fiji, Philippines (which I just flew on in November), British Airways, and United, and by the end of the year China Air will switch to a 777 as well. It's getting harder and harder to choose a 747 when you fly international.

More pics after the break...

And here are shots of line 1500's taxi test, which I did catch a few weeks ago. It returned for a B1 later in the evening and I missed it.


  1. Delta 747-8i? If it happened, it would be an eye opener.

    1. I want to see an AA 747-8 in the new livery

    2. That would be great to see for sure!

      In tangential news, it looks like AirBridgeCargo is looking to add more 747-8Fs. Unfortunately, the article is behind a pay wall.

  2. Delta CEO a few months ago called the 747-8 obsolete with its 4 engines, and indicated future aircraft oceans was 2 engines. Given Delta's propensity to buy older often used aircraft (757, etc.), and the fact they got rid of 747's once before until they got Northwest's fleet of 747's, I don't think you'll see Delta buying any. Especially with plenty of unsold 777-300ER slots available until 777x comes out, I think Delta would just invest in more a330's and 773's once they get the price they want

    1. Source? Delta's CEO has been on the record as saying "The A380 is, by definition, an uneconomic airplane unless you're a state-owned enterprise with subsidies,", as well as saying “We had four engines when jet engine technology wasn’t advanced" and “Now jet engines are amazing, amazing machines and you only need two of them.”.

      Other Delta officials have said that "They’re just much too large,” about the 380 and 747-8.

      I don't recall anything stating that Delta felt the 747-8 was obsolete. However it is very clear that they currently seem to feel that 4 engines are too inefficient and that the VLAs are too large for their routes. Fleet planning however is usually reviewed fairly frequently, so while apparently unlikely at the moment, one won't really know until their current RFP is awarded.

    2. Lets not drag twins into the argument, it is very clear that they have an advantage and they are here to stay.

      Delta's Rationale for buying the 748 is that it sells tickets for other aircraft that are NOT 747's. It is a flagship. It says right there in the article that they know what the risk is and know that twins do better, but slap a photo of a 747 in a magazine? Instant Winner. Now lets try that with an A320, 737 or CRJ or any of the other airplanes that their competitors also operate.

      The thing is, of course is that I will be shocked if they actually do it.

      Does that mean that they are uneconomical? Inefficient? Obsolete?

      Oh come on.

  3. That quote you stated regarding four engine vs. two engine is what I was referring to. My point was that Delta wasn't interested in 4 engine planes going forward, and that twin engine a330 and b773 were perfectly good replacements for the 744's for their needs (and given their alliance partners who do fly a380, b747). I'm still betting Delta goes with a330-neo and current b773 post-2017 to replace the 744's. Who knows, maybe they pick up some really cheap late model 744's for select flights (some are already being torn up for scrap), but I don't see any shiny new 748's entering their fleet

    1. Right, and that is all I was pointing out. Anderson didn't say anything about them being obsolete, however what he and other Delta officers have repeatedly said is that the 380 and the 747-8 are too large for them to fill as things currently stand.

      He has also very clearly expressed a preference for 2 engines versus 4, but again, that doesn't mean obsolete. The engines on the 747-8 are the latest generation in production and are very fuel efficient. They are bleed-air derivatives of the 787 engines.

      As for the Delta RFP itself, everything that the CEO has said so far points to it being a choice between the 350/787/777. However, he does seem to really want Airbus to do the 330neo, so that may be well in the running as well.

      The other point I was trying to stress was that fleet planning is something that airlines these days tend perform analysis on much more frequently than in the past. Not everything boils down to CASM either. Revenue generation is the other big factor, and as charlie points out, there are some niches that VLAs can still fill. The real key from an airlines perspective is whether or not they need the capacity, or if not, can they find good steady premium traffic so that they can profitably put the extra payload that a VLA provides to use.

    2. I don't personally believe the 748 is obsolete, but I do think it has become a niche aircraft.

      When the 747 first flew passenger flights in 1970, it had numerous unique advantages: it was twice as big as any other passenger aircraft (that airlines would fly), it had 4 engines to traverse oceans when engines were less reliable, longer range, incredible thrust for using on shorter runways and high altitude or very hot/humid environments, significantly larger cargo capacity than other craft, unique freighter option with a swing-out nose, and it brought the cost of flying internationally lower than any of its competition, and it looked absolutely beautiful. I've flown on 747's at least 3 dozen times, and always looked forward to every flight.

      Over the past 40 years, with technological progress and new aircraft designs, many of these unique advantages are not so unique anymore. For instance, engines are more reliable such that etops-330 can be achieved by numerous competitors (b773, and b788 just this week) so 4 engines is no longer an advantage. Due to aerodynamics/drag, 4 engines can actually be disadvantage, although you have to compensate for the proportionally smaller vertical tailfin of 4 engine aircraft relative to twin engine (FAA mandates rudder output based on a single engine failing during take-off, which is easier to accommodate via rudder when you start with 4 engines). Fuel costs surged, and airlines went to maximizing revenue per square inch per seat -- goodbye bars and pianos. Some airlines started de-hubbing, and the number of international airlines and low cost carriers increased. More airlines started focusing on point-to-point, and increasing frequency rather than size to please biz/1st passengers up front, who pay 60-70% the cost of an international flight. Increasing international airport taxes also favor point-to-point (layovers add hundreds of dollars to a flight). Throw in new b787 line, b777 and b777x, and a350 and a380 with equal or longer ranges than b744 and now b748, and 748 sales are certainly pressured. And if you look at the Japanese airlines, who bought a lot of 744's, the "poster" airline image they use now are 787's.

      That said, 748 is not obsolete. It still carries 50% more cargo than a b773, and is unique for handling large objects or space shuttles or U.S. Presidents and other Heads of State. The a380 cannot match the storage volume of b748 because of its floor decking being structural to the plane yet in the way of loading large cargo. Not sure a swing-out nose is even possible on an a380 either without moving a lot of avionics. One reason airlines like the Emirates favor a380's is due to the hot climate, they need the extra thrust from 4 engines to go for the longest range flights, but alas they did not bite on 748, going with more a380s and b778/9. And certainly Lufthansa likes 748s, although no other airlines have followed in a similar manner. So anyway, while 748 will continue to win in these niches, the market is not what it was. Bring fuel prices down by a factor of 3, and sure, 748 is right back in it, but that hasn't happened yet. Casm is still a significant deciding factor, along with purchase cost and operating cost, but casm is very airline/route/geography/weather dependent and what works for one airline won't for another. And with many used 744's with light mileage on the market, hard to pay $160M for a new 748 when you can get a lightly used 744 for $20M. The latter is more Delta's style.

      So that said, while I wouldn't personally call 748 obsolete as a whole, it is obsolete in many of its original roles, and many of those 744's that are about to be replaced will likely go to the newer twin engines and some occasional a380s. In the case of the role that Delta wishes to fill, I don't see 748 as competitive -- i.e., without major improvements, it's been obsoleted in the Delta role.

    3. Great points Vaibhav. Back in the 70's through early 90's, airlines needed the 747 (for range, reliability over water, capacity, and or CASM). Post 2000, the 747 is viable but not nearly as much of a benefit for range, reliability, capacity, or CASM. You can still fly a 747-8I and make out better than a 777 by some percentage, but the rewards are not as great, so most choose to forgo the extra risk of not filling the plane. Throw in the A380 taking over half the jumbo market with its newness/bigness, and here we are with ~50 orders.

      I understand why the 747-8I isn't burning down barns, but it still makes me sad. I'm glad some airlines are finding uses for it, and will continue to hope against the odds that more join in.

    4. And just 3 days after I wrote this comment, Emirates is talking 748 with Boeing again. Not sure if this is because of frustrations with Airbus for not doing a380neo in their timetable, or a negotiation strategy against airbus or because boeing offered cut-rate 748 pricing, or Emirates just avoiding an over-reliance on a single aircraft with regard to business risk (e.g., imagine what would happen to Emirates if a380 was grounded for 2 months due to a mechanical issue), but it will interesting to see if this leads to any desperately needed sales. Maybe a mix of passenger and cargo aircraft?

      And Emirates is one airline who prefers 4 engines for the still viable hot/humid role, in which the high heat & humidity reduces lift and limits your abililty to fly planes fully-laden with fuel for ultra long range if you only have the lower thrust of twin jets instead of 4 engine monsters like b748 and a380 for a normal runway length. And given the size and location of Emirates hub, they have no problem filling these planes, and even asked airbus for a larger a380.

      With a large enough order, Boeing would be smart to discount strongly to ensure the long-term health of the 748 program

  4. I went to a shopping mall last week, there were toy airliners for sale for 5 bucks. They all had 4 engines and a hump.

    That is the image that not one of the competitors you mention will EVER have with the public, and that is what is selling 748's, public perception. LH knows it, and revealed their Fanhansa livery on their 748 first, not the larger A380 it also operates. Air China knows it too, because after buying 19 77W's they are missing something and buying 748's to fill the void. Transaero built a reputation for their airline using 2nd hand 747's that Air New Zealand didn't want. and are buying 748's because it knows it sells tickets.

    Is there a niche for the 748 to fill? Yes there is, the void left behind by the 747 itself.


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