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Monday, June 30, 2014

Project Ozark Lives

The 1500th 747 delivery came and went without much fanfare. That was disappointing to me. But...

More news of orders for the 747-8, specifically for the Intercontinental, are mentioned in this Aviation Week article. The article makes the 747-8, more than ever, sound like a continuous work in progress to eke out better and better economics. As far as I know, this is a new style of business for Boeing. The first 747-400s performed about as well as the ones that rolled out 10+ years later.

Lufthansa says the aircraft is meeting original specs, but they want more. Boeing seems willing to bend over backwards to keep the model in production. They've removed 9,000 pounds, and they want to remove more. They want to raise MTOW over a million pounds, and they want to extend real world range over 8,200 nautical miles. These are all part of Project Ozark, which is Boeing's program name covering all of these continued improvements.

Leeham has once again rained on the parade, with more pragmatic doom and gloom. Let's hope Boeing can prove them wrong.

At least it's good to have so much discussion still going on about the 747. It was getting pretty quiet for a while there, and that's what I found really disconcerting.


  1. Stephen Trimble over at Flightglobal chimes in with this article:

    Some of the same information, but some of it focused on a bit more of the other details. For example:

    - Finding customers may depend on whether the company can increase the range of the passenger variant by 500nm (925km), putting flights from China to the US east coast and from the Middle East to the US west coast within its reach.

    - Adding more range – and weight – means the fate of the 747 programme may come down to a singular engineering question: how much more load can be absorbed by the jumbo jet’s landing gear?

    - “We just want to sell more passenger (variants],” Shanahan says. “I think people are going to buy it, but they haven’t bought it. So we’ve got to go sell some more.”

    I agree that these types of articles and discussions are a good sign. I think it is more detailed, with more concrete discussion about ongoing interest from the airlines and what they may be asking for, than what was seen in the past year or so. Hopefully it does mean that the interest that Boeing has talked about is really substantial, however in the long run, it will all boil down to if they can close those sales campaigns.

  2. Well it depends on what technology is available at their disposal. Given that even Emirates have been mentioned points to a new spec Airframe that they are projecting should be available before 2016. Lufthansa may already have bought the first one although in reality if they want a brand new frame with zero retrofit, they may have to exercise those purchase rights.

    Speculations aside of course, why don't they just offer an -ER model with a baseline range of 8500 NM, MTOW well in excess of 1 million lbs and as a follow on, a wing that will be the basis to stretch it into 747-9 configuration. I don't see why they have to consider that as a completely separate program altogether, as they can just take whatever gains they get and cut and paste into a stretch, reconfig here and there a little and hey presto, we have a new 500+ seat aircraft, well and above the 77X models.

  3. AirlineReporter has published their article covering the 1500th frame and their interview with Boeing.

    It covers a lot of the same ground, but has some interesting numbers on 747-8 operations, as well as talking a bit more in depth about the Dubai customer case.

    The two main sentiments seem to be the following:

    - Although Boeing would not directly state they have some customers on the line, it was strongly hinted that we might be hearing about a potential new customer or two in the upcoming months.

    - One example of future operations they gave was wanting the 747-8I to be able to take off, fully loaded, any time of the year (even in a hot environment) and fly 8,200 miles.

  4. Here is an article about the decline of 4 engine jets.

  5. There is a limitation to this decline that is mentioned in your article Bruce, and it is all about how far you can push the Engine technology, to meet the demands of New designs.

    I've mentioned this before somewhere, but the 778/779 series jets are paving the way for a larger twin Engine design that would properly fill the role of a 747 replacement. The engines are what make this possible by allowing this new clean sheet design to sit at the top end of the scale, with a baseline MTOW similar to what is being offered by the 748 series, and matching capacity to boot, it would eat away at the bottom end of the A380 market, similar to what the 77W and 748 are doing now and also what the 779 would do in future. Despite the overlap here, it would be in position to grow beyond the Constrains of the 779 series and fill that capacity gap between the 748 and A380.

    The limitations of this equation are simply the engines. No engine exists to power such a Monster.

    Quads do not suffer from this problem, as and when there is a need for a large craft of size and capacity, all the engine manufacturers will turn to existing engines and tweak them to suit the requirements. This is why I foresee a limited market for Quads, but not an entirely diminished one. As long as manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus continue to iterate future giants, there is always from a design standpoint, the use of the quad first to reduce demands on Engineering and also as a less capital intensive solution to the problem, by fitting a known engine rated to meet the thrust requirements in a quad arrangement.

    I might be wrong here, but that approach seems logical to me, at least.

  6. Boeing is also looking at using 3 748's to help out their DreamLifter fleet for shipping around 787 fuselage sections

    "Meanwhile, Boeing could consider other changes to the assembly process as the production rate rises by 40% to 14 aircraft per month by the end of the decade. Alternatives to the Dreamlifter – a fleet of three modified 747-8s that carry sections of the 787 between major assembly hubs in Italy, Japan and the USA – are being considered."

    1. I read that differently. I think the reporter is confusedly trying to point out what the Dreamlifter is, and mistakenly calling them 747-8s while saying there are only three of them.

    2. It is indeed a typo. The author eventually corrected his article, as a lot of people were starting to ask him for details about when Boeing decided to use 747-8s for new Dreamlifters. :-)