Even though British Airways had slated to retired their entire fleet by 2024, did the COVID 19 pandemic hasten the demise of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet?
By: Ringo Bones
When the civil aviation celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the maiden flight of the “Queen of the Skies” back in February 2019, the Boeing 747 was notably remembered for democratizing global air travel during the 1970s. First thought of as a stop-gap measure by Boeing’s design team at Seattle during the late 1960s before the global airline industry would start using the supersonic capable Concorde and competing designs as their primary fleet, who knew that value-for-money subsonic speed air travel would define the airline industry for the rest of the 20th Century. Before the Concorde was retired, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet was the second fastest operational civilian commercial plane with a top speed of just over 650 miles per hour. And it also achieved a record first back in 1989 when it flew nonstop from London to Sydney.
A number of airline companies already retired their fleet of 747s during the second half of 2019 and in the United States the venerable Jumbo Jet was relegated as an air freight carrier. British Airways had planned on retiring their planes in 2024 but has brought it forward four years sooner because of the air travel downturn due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Last year, British Airways is the world’s largest operator of the Jumbo Jets with 31 planes in the airline’s fleet. For all intents and purposes, it could be said that that COVID 19 pandemic actually killed the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet as a civilian passenger aircraft, or at least hastened its retirement.
As a four-engine subsonic aircraft, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet is far less efficient than modern twin-engine models that are made almost entirely of high-strength composites – such as the Airbus A350, Boeing’s own 787 Dreamliner or even the older Boeing 777 – all of which are cheaper to run in terms of fuel consumption. And by retiring their fleet of Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets, British Airways might just achieve their goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
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