Demand for the 747 has been slowing down. Four-engine jets seem to be a bit thirsty for today’s market, and the 777 seems to be a better option.
While the 747-8 has a maximum capacity of 605 seats, three-class seating is 467. The 777 seats 314 to 451 passengers. So a typical 747 arrangement is about the same as the maximum arrangement for the 777 – though the three-class 747 carries nearly 50% more people if the 777 uses a more comfortable arrangement. Is the 777 that much more efficient? Even with the reduced fuel burn, you’re still spending more than $300,000,000 to buy the airplane.
In any case, it looks like Boeing has enough orders to take it into 2017. The current Air Force One, built in 1987, is scheduled to be replaced in 2021 – four years after production of 747s may stop. The Pentagon is considering buying two aircraft four years early.
Thirteen of the 39 planes currently on order are freighter models. If orders for the freighter version do not pick up, then it sounds like the 747 is on its way out. But 45 years – 47 years in 2017 – is a pretty good run. (I’d still like to see the 50th Anniversary Edition.)