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Boeing Takes Order for Final Four 747s

Matt Falcus of The Airport Spotting Blog reports that Boeing has taken the last orders for its iconic 747 aircraft with confirmation that its final four airplanes are now spoken for. With only the 747-8 still in production, Boeing has announced that the last four aircraft off the production line will be for Atlas Air – the global air freight specialist, who will use the aircraft to meet its growing cargo demand around the world.

“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.

With a maximum payload capacity of 137.7 metric tonnes (137,750 kg), the 747-8 Freighter allows customers to access 20% more payload capacity while using 16% less fuel compared to previous-generation 747s. The jet also features 30% quieter engines. The 747-8 airplanes in this agreement will be the final four aircraft to roll off the production line in Everett, Washington. Atlas Air has 53 747s in its current fleet, making it the largest 747 operator in the world.

The aircraft are set to be delivered in 2022, which will be 52 years since the first Boeing 747-100 was delivered to Pan Am in November 1970.

© Matt Falcus / The Airport Spotting Blog

Looking back at the 747:

(British Airways)

The 747, flight attendants and the '60-foot rule'

Pan American World Airways introduced the aircraft into commercial service in January 1970 and, with it, twin aisles, a set of stairs leading to an upper deck lounge where first-class passengers could get a drink from the bar during the flight, along with the now-iconic hump on the top of the aircraft. The rest as they say, is history.

One lesser-known side-story to the 747 gave rise to what became known as the '60-foot rule'. In 1984, Boeing proposed the removal of the two over-wing exit doors on the 747. Most aircraft had the forward main entry doors on both sides just behind the flight deck and a second pair of doors at the rear of the cabin, just in front of the tail. The over-wing exits were small hatches rather than full size doors. The 747 had full size doors over both wings however (one on each side) and it was these Boeing proposed to do away with. The result would have meant additional seats in the space created.

Sara Nelson, a United Airlines flights attendant and International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, spoke about the role unions representing pilots and flight attendants had in fighting for the establishment of the 60-foot rule and its meaning for passenger safety.

“In 1984, Boeing approached the Federal Aviation Administration and asked it to approve a request to remove two emergency evacuation exits from the over wing exits,” said Nelson. Both pilots and flight attendants raised concerns to the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). They believed that loss of those doors would compromise passenger safety.

“It was a issue of not having enough exits located close enough to where passengers were seated to be able to get them up to an exit and out the door in time,” continued Nelson, “We pushed back against Boeing’s request and provided data that showed [removing the doors] would create a problem for getting everyone off the aircraft in 90 seconds,” this being the time-limit in which airline manufacturers must prove to the FAA that an aircraft can be fully evacuated. In June 1985 the unions provided testimony to the Public Works and Transportation Committee and, ultimately, the FAA did not allow the removal of the exits.

“We continued to prod the FAA,” said Nelson, “And in 1988 they put in place a new rule of exits being no more than 60 feet apart.”

G-BDXB, one of British Airways 747-236 aircraft, with the door outlines clearly visible - except the over-wing doors. Foto Noir

A 1988 New York Times story about the ruling noted that foreign carriers operating 747s would not have been required to follow the FAA’s 60-foot rule, but that 'Foreign authorities commonly follow the agency’s lead in operation of American-built planes', and that pressure to adopt the same ruling was likely to arise in countries outside the United States.

Boeing objected to the ruling, but ultimately, the 60-foot rule became a requirement for every aircraft that flies around the world. Nelson credits flight attendants, especially, with making the rule a reality.

“No one knows the aircraft cabin better than flight attendants. We are certified safety professionals and the government requires us to be on board specifically to be able to evacuate passengers in the required 90 seconds,” said Nelson, “We are the experts on the subject and we were the ones to speak up because this is the at the centre of what we do.”

The '60-foot rule' is 14 CFR 25.807(f)(4), “For an airplane that is required to have more than one passenger emergency exit for each side of the fuselage, no passenger emergency exit shall be more than 60 feet from any adjacent passenger emergency exit on the same side of the same deck of the fuselage, as measured parallel to the airplane’s longitudinal axis between the nearest exit edges.”- Federal Aviation Administration

With thanks to Harriet Baskas for the information above.

(Kevan James)

(James White)

(Bob Adams)

(Tsung Tsen Tsan)


(James White)

(Kevan James)

(Kevan James)

(Roland Arhelger)


(Fotograaf Onebekend-Anefo)

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