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The aircraft that’s ‘slowly dying’


BOEING has announced that it will slow production of its 747-8 airliner in September, halving the output of the aircraft from twelve to six planes a year.

The manufacturer also said that it will acknowledge a $813 million after-tax fee when it announces its financial results for the last quarter of 2015.

Boeing explained that this slowing of production was in response to halting demand from the global air cargo market.

“Global air passenger traffic growth and aeroplane demand remain strong, but the air cargo market recovery that began in late 2013 has stalled in recent months and slowed demand for the 747-8 Freighter,” explained Ray Conner, Boeing vice chairman and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Overall market demand for the four-engine 747-8 is decreasing in favour of more fuel-efficient, two-engine aircraft.

While the airliner has more latterly been in demand as a cargo plane, Boeing has confirmed the 747-8 will still be in use as part of the Air Force One presidential fleet.

Greg Smith, Boeing’s executive vice president of business development and strategy and chief financial officer, added that; “We are closely monitoring the air cargo market as we work to win additional orders to support ongoing future production.”

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst from the Virginia-based Teal Group Corporation, explained the impetus behind Boeing’s decision to the BBC: “Basically, the 747 line is slowly dying. Boeing can’t kill it right away, even if that makes economic sense, because they need to build the last few planes for the US Air Force presidential replacement aircraft program in a year or two.”

A number of factors, Aboulafia explained, have resulted in decreased demand for the wide-body aircraft.

“The cargo market has had a very difficult few years, and shows no signs of growth. Meanwhile, the 747-8I passenger version was basically killed by the 777-9X, in much the same way that Airbus’s A380 was gravely damaged by the A350-1000,” he said.

Photo: AFP

Updated: January 30, 2016 — 1:31 am

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