A Boeing 747-400 commercial jumbo jet served as a cargo plane, and it had a embarrassing mishap September 8. The Air Atlanta Icelandic 747-400 departed from Liege Airport in Belgium, and in flight part of one of the engines fell off the jumbo jet and struck the roof of a house in a residential area of Liege. The incident could have been worse and no one was injured, but it shows the plane is struggling, despite high hopes it would be a valuable jumbo jet for various roles in the future.
The bonnet hit the corner of the roof of the house and then fell to the ground. The residents originally thought their house had been struck by lightning. The roof was not badly damaged. Meanwhile, the plane landed in Malta and was immediately grounded.
747-400: Heavy use of aluminum, wiring and tubing
The Boeing 747-400 was a record breaker when it was first built in 1989. The aircraft used 147,000 pounds of aluminum. It was with 171 miles of wiring and five miles of tubing. The 747-400 had a range of 8,354 miles – capable of reaching any continent from the United States.
Specs are unmatched
At 231 feet long, the plane seats 524 passengers. The wingspan is 211 feet. The cabin is 20 feet wide. Cruising speed at 35,000 feet is 565 miles per hour. The rate of climb is 1,500 feet per minute. Maximum takeoff weight is 875,000 pounds with 57,000 pounds of fuel. That’s only 0.13 miles per gallon. Each plane costs about $260 million.
queen of heaven
It was designed to carry twice the number of people compared to the Boeing 707 and was nicknamed the “Queen of Heaven”. The engines were advanced for the time and could save fuel in the early days. They gave the plane a huge boost. Designers used the size of the big bird to create backup systems in the event of a catastrophic failure.
Originally designed for the military
The 747 series of airliners have been around since the 1960s and were originally designed for the US Air Force. Boeing lost military bid to Lockheed Galaxy C-5A. So Pan American ordered twenty-five 747s in 1966. The 747 made its maiden flight in 1969 and its first Pan Am trip in 1970. One thousand three hundred and forty-one 747s have been built since then. The assembly plant in Washington State, north of Seattle, is one of the largest buildings in the world where “16,000 suppliers and subcontractors work to deliver their six million parts and components”, according to aerospace technology.
Boeing 747-400: where else could you enjoy a bar at 30,000 feet
The plane had many comforts and even a second deck where operators set up bars and restaurants. But fuel costs were exorbitant, and more fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft made the 747 models obsolete. Four engines simply burned too much fuel. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB have better fuel economy specifications.
The pandemic is hurting
The Covid-19 pandemic has bitten passenger demand. This downward surge in ticket sales has convinced airlines that the The 747 series was too expensive to maintain as some flights had few passengers and many flights had to be cancelled. UPS, Qatar Airways cargo and Atlas Air have historically purchased the 747-8i along with a handful of passenger operators. United Airlines and Delta still use the 747 with Lufthansa and Korean Air. Qantas has retired its fleet of 747s.
President Biden still flies in Air Force One which is a convert 747-200. The 747-8i will replace it. The 747-8i is the last 747 model produced as the end of the production line will end this year.
The 747-400 has always had the prestige, the highly recognized name and the ability to surround passengers in a luxury ride. The Queen of Heaven is set to end her reign due to fuel costs, the global pandemic and declining sales. It has served the world’s airlines extraordinarily well and has had a safety record (apart from the accident recounted above and 61 hull losses over the decades) with many satisfied customers who have enjoyed the bar and restaurant upstairs. Too bad the golden age of the jumbo, the jumbo jet is coming to an end.
Biography of the expert: As editor of defense and national security in 1945, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an emerging threat expert and former US Army infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a doctorate. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/International Relations.