Every second year, Farnborough in the UK hosts a very large air show. Aside from the displays on the ground and in the air, there is much interest in who announces what when it comes to new aircraft orders. With the massive orders in the past 18 months for both the Airbus A320NEO and Boeings 737MAX, focus this year could shift to the wide body orders. That includes an old favourite, the 747.

There is a bit of speculation around that Boeing is set to announce a new customer for the 747-8 in the next few weeks, possibly at Farnborough. It is believed they have up to three airlines looking at options.

For many of our members, the 747 holds a special place in their hearts. With Australia so remote, the 747 has been the backbone of the Qantas long haul fleet for decades. With the current 747 fleet getting close to retirement age, some are hoping Qantas will be flying 747s for a long time to come.

Sad day when any 747’s are gone. I just cannot imagine flying without an option to go on a 747.

Please be qantas, please be qantas, please be qantas… (trying to use jedi mind tricks on AJ )

Regardless of history or customer sentiment, an airline is going to try and select the best replacement for their needs. The press like to pitch the market as an Airbus versus Boeing battle, but things are not that simple. While Qantas does have more A380s on order, some routes are clearly not suited to its size. This explains why some of the current 747-8 operators also operate the A380, giving them the best of both Airbus and Boeing worlds.

If you take the A380 out of the equation, ironically it’s the aircraft Qantas helped design, the 777 that is the closest competitor to the 747-8. With a similar passenger capacity as the 747, the 777-300ER has been a popular choice for other airlines replacing their 747 fleet. However Australian regulators have been more conservative when it comes to twin engine operation. Unlike other regions, Australian operated aircraft are limited to flight paths where an alternate airfield is a maximum three hours away should an engine fail. As Virgin Australia found out, that makes Sydney Johannesburg uneconomical to operate with such aircraft. With Qantas flying to South Africa and South America, it seems four engines will still be the way to go for the foreseeable future at least to those destinations.

With the 747 production line starting to slow, clearly Boeing sales people will be sharpening the pencils when it comes to negotiating for new orders. Will Qantas get a great deal and keep the Boeing four engine tradition going, or maybe it’s another airline that’s looking closely at new 747 orders? Why not have your say HERE.


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