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The Boeing 747 Is Gone Because Bigger Isn’t Better Anymore

The huge 747 jet is flying off into the sunset. Program production wraps up Tuesday.

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Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The
Boeing
747 program is no more. The planes, of course, still fly. But no more will ever be built.

Tuesday, the last mammoth 747 jet
Boeing
(ticker: BA) ever builds is slated to roll off an assembly line in Everett, Wash.

The end of the 747 program isn’t a surprise as CEO Dave Calhoun said in July 2020 that the last one would be built in 2022. It is however and opportunity for aerospace investors, and plane enthusiasts, to reflect on the past.

The plane has quite a history. Boeing’s plan for a jumbo jet that could seat almost 500 people was announced in April 1966. The first test flight was in February 1969, more than 53 years ago. The plane entered commercial service in January 1970, in the fleet of Pan Am Airlines.

Over the entire production run, which spanned 55 years, 1,574 planes were built for more than 100 customers.

Only four have been delivered so far in 2022, all for freight customers. The final delivery will go to air cargo company
Atlas Air Worldwide
(AAWW).

The commercial-airline industry has moved away from huge, quad-engine jets, and embraced fuel-efficient twin-engine models whose smaller capacity also enables more direct routes. Not every airport or market can support a 747-sized plane, and passengers prefer more choices for direct flights.

A twin-engine 787 Dreamliner, which entered service in 2011, holds roughly 300 people and has similar range of a 747 jet.

The size of 747 made it iconic, but size ended up working against the aircraft. Still, walking up the 14 steps into the upper deck of a two-level 747 was a treat for any traveler. That upper deck has the same area as the deck of an entire 737-700 jet. And the wing span of a 747-800 is the same as two 737-700 jets lined up nose to tail.

It was quite an aircraft program.

Boeing stock dropped 3.6% Tuesday. The 747 isn’t the reason, though, as the broader market was awash in red. The
S&P 500
and
Dow Jones Industrial Average
dropped 1.4% and 1%, respectively.

In addition to the market, investors found out late Monday that Boeing and
Lockheed Martin
(LMT) also lost their joint bid to supply the army with its next-generation attack helicopter.
Textron
(TXT) won with its V-280 Valor aircraft.

Year to date, Boeing stock is down about 11%.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com

Credit: marketwatch.com

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