When I first read this press bulletin from Atlas Air, I thought it was an old headline that was erroneously posted in a recent blog. When the headline was verified; it underscored my feeling about an airplane that is both timeless and resolute.
Atlas Air Worldwide announced that it has ordered four new Boeing 747-8 freighters in a transaction that furthers the company’s strategic growth plan. The aircraft will enable the company to meet strong customer demand in the airfreight market, particularly the fast-growing e-commerce and express sectors.
The order is valued at approximately $1.5 billion at current list prices. The workhorse freighters that were in much demand in the shipping of vaccines, and other virus fighting equipment and medicines seemed to be enjoying a new life.
Boeing, while recognizing the contribution of the over fifty-year old aircraft from its’ first commercial flight in 1970*, they need to move on to the new 777 series which fits current passenger demand, with the bonus of reduced carbon emissions. But for us old timers who all remember our first flights on “the apartment house that flies” – My reaction when I saw it at the gate for the first time – it is a bitter-sweet announcement.
Metropolitan Airport News interviewed Public Relations spokeswoman, Jessica Kowal, on the ending of an era and she responded, “you will continue to see 747-8’s in the air for some time as the aircraft has a long life” which is proven by the long tenure of the airplane over the years. She added; “while the last order is in the books for delivery to Atlas Air, this airplane has the longest production life of any airplane in aviation history and will always be known for i[s iconic shape. It is an airplane that transformed the industry.”
“The 747-8F is the best and most versatile widebody freighter in the market, and we are excited to bolster our fleet with the acquisition of these four aircraft,” said John W. Dietrich, Atlas Air Worldwide President and Chief Executive Officer. “This significant growth opportunity will enable us to capitalize on strong demand and deliver value for our existing and prospective customers. The efficiency and capability of the 747-8F further complements our longstanding focus on leading edge technology.”
Dedicated freighters – like those operated by our Atlas, Polar and Southern subsidiaries – will continue to be in demand as the global airfreight market, particularly the e-commerce and express sectors, continues to grow.
Cathay Pacific was the most recent customer of Boeing placing an order for three 747-8 Freighters last March. That order, which included options for five additional 777 Freighters, was valued at approximately $1 billion as well.
Atlas Air currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of 117 aircraft including four 747-400s, 29 747-400Fs, and ten 747-8Fs.
The 747-8 Freighter is 250’ 2” (76.3 meters) long, which is 18’ 4” (5.6 meters) longer than its predecessor, the 747-400 Freighter. The aircraft also offers a 16% increase in cargo space when compared to the 747-700 Freighter, and has a range of 4,390 nautical miles (8,130 kilometers).
The first 747-8F Freighter performed its maiden flight on February 8, 2010, followed by the passenger version, the 747-8I Intercontinental, on March 20, 2011.
- * The first commercial Boeing 747 flight was a Pan Am trip from New York to London on Jan. 21, 1970.