Boeing to Deliver Its 1,500th 747

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Boeing will deliver its 1,500th 747 when Lufthansa picks it up on Saturday. It is the first wide-body aircraft ever to hit the mark, 45 years after it originally took flight. The aircraft is a 747-8 Intercontinental, representing the latest iteration of what has been called the queen of the skies by publicists and, affectionately, the Whale, by pilots. First flown in 2011, the -8 included a substantial redesign of its wings, fresh cabin features, and new engines. The intention, when the program was launched back in November 2005, was to breathe new life into an already successful program, allowing customers to replace aging 747-400s with something bigger and better, while providing a viable alternative to Airbus’ ultra-huge A380.

Given the success of the 747 program to date, it seemed like the 747-8 would be a surefire way of seeing the program go onto even greater feats. Yet Saturday’s achievement is widely believed to be the last major production mile-marker the jet will pass, according to a published report. Orders have slowed to a trickle, and production has been reset to match, with the factory producing one and a half jets per month. The current order backlog, combined with current production rates, would extend the line through late in the decade, when it is rumored the last jets off the line could become the new Air Force One fleet, replacing earlier generation 747-200s built in 1990.