[Ref Flight International Magazine 2-8 Jun 2020]
Boeing needs to face some key decisions over future product strategy : whether to extend production of the 747-8F beyond 2022 or turn the lights out on the iconic aircraft.
Boeing has been offering customers a range of freighters with payloads running from 52t all the way up to 138t – 767-300F, 777F and 747-8F aircraft; Airbus, on the other hand has just one factory freighter, the A330-200F.
The cargo market has of course been central to the 747’s design since the beginning. The signature upper-deck cockpit configuration was incorporated to enable nose-loading capability – a crucial element of the aircraft’s cargo credentials.
Despite the 747 might be in the sunset of its life, ther is unique cargo-carrying capabilities – at 138t, the aircraft has significantly greater payload than the next largest civil freighter – the 777F, at 102t – and also offers the flexibility of nose-loading for outsize cargo. Its demise would leave cargo carriers with a serious problem in terms of the availability of new-build, large-capacity freighters.
Boeing is understood to have determined a minimum number of orders required to commit to a new supply line and extend 747 production – a figure believed to be close to 100 aircraft.
So, whether Boeing will end the program or not, we will see!