Atlas Air has confirmed that it will receive three Boeing 747 aircraft this year in what will be the final mainstream delivery of the aircraft. The airline is the largest operator of the aircraft type, with more than 50 Boeing 747-400s and 747-800s in service.
Atlas Air ordered the final Boeing 747s during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
Atlas Air to see out Boeing 747 production
The American airline received one of its four Boeing 747-800 aircraft in the second quarter of this year, and Atlas Air will receive the last three later 747s later this year. The aircraft were ordered by the airline during the COVID-19 pandemic when demand for air freight soared.
Sadly for many aviation enthusiasts, apart from two modified ‘Air Force One’ Boeing 747s, these deliveries will also be the final direct deliveries of the Boeing 747 aircraft. There is no confirmed date for the delivery of the final Boeing 747, but the latest it will be delivered is in December 2022. The rollout of the aircraft and its delivery is bound to be a grand event marking the end of production of an iconic jetliner.
Some keen eyed fans have spotted some of the final Boeing 747s being uncovered and moved within Boeing’s production site. One of the last times that fans will be able to see the Queen of the Skies being constructed.
The Queen of the Skies
Following the first flight on February 9th, 1969, and subsequent entry into service with Pan Am one year later, the Boeing 747 fast became an icon that was to enjoy over 54 years of production in its various iterations.
Pan Am was very much involved in the development of Boeing’s jumbo jet, and its request for a long-range high-capacity aircraft was a large reason for the 747s creation. Pan Am ordered as many as 25 of the new groundbreaking quadjet and operated the first revenue passenger flight on January 22nd, 1970.
Atlas Air is currently the largest operator of the type, with 37 747-400s and four 747-8s in its fleet. It will also be Boeing’s final customer for the plane, agreeing to purchase the last four ever to come out from the final assembly line in Everett. For now, according to data from Planespotters.net, 30 of the carrier’s current 41 Queens are in service. UPS also has a fleet of 34, Cargolux operates 30, and Kalitta Air 24.
The COVID-19 pandemic and collapse in demand for travel hastened the decline in the use of the Queen of the Skies. Many Boeing 747s had already been scheduled for retirement when COVID-19 turned the aviation sector upside down. The large jets were increasingly showing their age and were less competitive than their new fuel-efficient rival twin-engined aircraft.
With the full-fleet 747 retirements of Qantas, KLM, and British Airways in 2020, the Boeing 747 is becoming an increasingly rare bird in passenger operations. The jet remains very popular with cargo operators, but it is increasingly harder to find passenger operators.
Current active passenger operators include:
- Air China
- Asiana Airlines
- Korean Airline
- Mahan Air
- Max Air
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