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Delta Will Retire Remaining 747s by 2017


Delta Air Lines will phase out its Boeing 747 service by 2017, CEO Richard Anderson told investors during the airline’s quarterly earnings report on Thursday.

The Boeing 747 was referred to by its original jet engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, as “the 70s way to fly — beautiful.” During the Delta Air Lines third-quarter earnings report on Thursday, CEO Richard Anderson reminded shareholders the 70s are long gone, announcing that the 16 remaining 747s in its fleet would be retired by 2017.

In the same announcement, Delta President Ed Bastian said the carrier is accelerating plans to retire 747s from its fleet as the airline shifts capacity on transatlantic flights to service between the U.S.  and Asia. Bastian also told shareholders that the introduction of new Airbus 330s would hasten the phasing-out of the 747s.

When the Clipper Victor entered service with Pan American World Airways in 1970, the Boeing 747-121 became the world’s first jumbo jet to operate a scheduled commercial service. Known as the “Queen of the Skies,” the iconic 747 was expected to remain in production for only a few years before being retired in favor of supersonic jets, which at the time were viewed as the future of air travel. Instead, the 747 has enjoyed a reign lasting more than four decades.

Delta’s move has launched speculation that production of new 747s will soon come to an end. According to a report from USA Today, Boeing is producing new 747s at the rate of just 1.5 aircraft per month compared to almost six per month in 1990. Eric Lindblad, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 747 program, assured USA Today in June that there was still a market for the aircraft. “There is still a fair amount of interest” Lindblad said. “Enough that we’re going to sit here today and say we expect we’re going to be building the 747-8 for quite a bit longer.”

[Photo: iStock]

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