Instead of killing the American pilot, the German pilot guided the worn out B-17 Bomber plane safely out of German air space.
During WWII, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown was the pilot of a B-17 and after a tough battle, his plane was the only one left behind in German air space. His plane was running dangerously out of fuel, all of his guns were taken out, half of his crew was wounded, his gunners were dead, and his plane was rattling from all the gunshots it had taken.
German fighter pilot, 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler, was only a kill away from earning The Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award for valor. He was on the ground when Brown’s B-17 passed over him and he took off on his plane to chase after the American plane.
When he got behind the B-17, he was about to press the trigger to take down the plane, but when no one from the B-17 was shooting at him, he flew closer to see that its gunners were dead and the crew inside were injured.
Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror.
Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder.
Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away and returned to Germany.
Brown eventually reached England and landed safely. He got married, had a job in the US State Department during Vietnam war, and eventually settled in Florida.
Then, he wanted to know who this German pilot that saved his life was. He put up an ad in an German newspaper.
On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read:
“Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?”
It was Stigler. He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1953. He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and “it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.”
They met up at a hotel in Florida and from being once enemies, they became close friends.
Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions. Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.
Both of them passed away in 2008. Brown was 87 and Stigler was 92.
Absolutely happens all the time. Personally I have done at least; Russian, Italian, British, French, Spanish, Iranian, Turkish, Israeli, Egyptian, Libyan, Canadian, Mexican, etc, etc. For a Navy fighter pilot it is just a normal day. Note some where friends and some were not, but that was part of the job. Giving you pictures of some fighter, but some of the bigger ones also. Easier to get a photo shot with them.
You have my permission to translate this guide into other languages if one does not already exist. Please be respectful to the original content by maintaining its indented meaning if possible. The font used for the guide is Humor Sans and can be downloaded here. You may use different fonts for your translation as needed.
Please include a link to this thread in your post for your translated version. In addition, please private message me a link to your translation so I may include it here. Thanks!
v28.1 - Added section for Angle of Incidence, asymmetric thrust compensation, landing gear positioning, minor fixes
v25.1 - Minor fixes and rephrasing, spelling corrections
v25 - Expanded drag force, landing gear, CoL relative to CoM, Added section on AoA, several other fixes
v20 - Clarified the relationship of CoL to CoM, neutral stability
v19 - With an additional 50% material; center of thrust, center of lift, edit fixes on existing articles
v11 - Turbo infused with 100% more knowledge!
v7 - Initial Release
It’s noon and I’m enjoying a nap, fully stretched out on my extremely comfortable bed-in-the-air – cocooned from the rest of the business class cabin by the protective, lightweight, composite-fibre shell.
My full-sized carry-on luggage is stored under the seat in front (why has no one thought of that before?). And my laptop and mobile phone are being charged in the cocoon’s subtly designed business console.
The air is ground-level quality, the ambient lighting discreet, and there’s that gentle soothing motion you get when you’re aloft in an Airbus A380, listening to a soporific Pink Floyd album and drifting into psychedelic dreamland.
Suddenly, I’m tapped on the shoulder and rudely returned from the Dark Side of The Moon to earthly reality. Now I remember. I’m not mid-flight at all – but in a specialist Japanese aeronautical factory surrounded by rice paddies on the southern island of Kyushu.
I’ve travelled here for a top-secret tour of the factory building Singapore Airline’s revolutionary new lightweight business-class seating pod – each one of which costs around $US850,000 ($A1,118,000) to design and construct.
The seats, designed in London by JPA Design, have been specifically tailored for the airline’s new generation of A380-800s. It has been 10 years since the world’s largest commercial aircraft made its service debut – on a Singapore Airlines flight to Sydney – and this is the first major reinvention of the A380 interior since then.
Passengers will be able to experience the new “product” when the inaugural flight, SQ231, leaves Singapore at 8.40pm on December 18, touching down in Sydney the following morning around 7.40am. However, here in Kyushu, following my impromptu nap, I can already vouch for the comfort of the fully reclining business-class bed, with the six-hour factory tour ready to continue …
WEDNESDAY, 11PM – MIYAZAKI, JAPAN
The journey to Miyazaki (once the honeymoon capital of Japan before brides wanted their photos taken in Hawaii or the Gold Coast) has involved three flights. Combined air time: 17 hours, plus six hours in airports but with a unforgettable glimpse of Mount Fuji’s unmistakable summit thrusting skywards from a dense duvet of grey clouds.
Far less enjoyable were the tortuous legal discussions before I was allowed to sign the secrecy document, roughly the length of an entire runway. All simply to visit a factory building aircraft seats.
Why? First, this is a rare opportunity to witness the clandestine planning any leading international airline does before it launches a major revamp. And also because aviation industry spies are everywhere.
Commercial airlines are like bus companies operating on Formula 1 grand prix car-racing rules. They need to pack as many passengers into an aircraft as possible to reduce costs, while being at the cutting edge of aviation science. In Formula 1, competing teams are governed by regulations, sponsors, engine manufacturers and the ingenuity of their design teams. The same is true of the world’s elite airlines. They all have access to identical wide-bodied planes (Boeing or Airbus) and the same engines (Rolls-Royce, General Electric or Pratt & Whitney).
So what’s their point of difference? Routes matter. So do frequency of flights, loyalty programmes, cabin service, celebrity chef-inspired meal options, entertainment updates.
And then there’s the internal architecture – what each airline does with its cabin layout within the manufacturer’s confines: its seat pitch and width in each class; the room it devotes to galleys where meals are prepared; the number of toilets, and where they are placed. Plus the excellence of the seats on a long-haul flight – particularly in business or first class where the competition between those elite airlines that fly between Australia, Europe and Asia is at its most fierce.
Hence the security surrounding tomorrow’s factory tour. (Meanwhile, a similar group has signed the same elaborate secrecy agreement to visit another factory in Wales that is building the airline’s new French-designed first-class cabins which will also be unveiled on that SQ231 flight to Sydney on December 19.)
Why should this matter to the majority of us habitually confined to the back of the car? Because in the same way engineering advances made in Formula 1 have improved the family car, so improvements made in first class can trickle down.
An obvious example is Singapore Airlines’ touch screen entertainment system, with its personalised recommendations based on what movies or music you’ve opted for on past flights. Once confined to first and business class, it is now shared by all cabins. Likewise, the airline’s “Book the Cook” service (which allows you to pre-order meals from a special menu) has now trickled down to premium economy.
THURSDAY, 10.30AM – JAMCO FACTORY, JAPAN
As the airline’s executive vice-president, commercial, it is Mak Swee Wah’s task to explain why an already successful airline (it recently won “Best First Class” and “Best Cabin Crew” in the well-regarded airlineratings.com awards) has invested millions in research and development to improve what it offers.
“This business is very competitive, a continual journey of improvement,” Mak says. “Customers’ needs are always changing. Customer requirements are always demanding. Competitors are always offering new products. Design cycles are getting shorter and shorter. So, with our new A380s, it was a perfect opportunity to take our product to the next level.”
The airline has gone back to the drawing board, reinventing how it uses the A380’s interior. Take the new first class suites: as Mak points out, Singapore was the first airline to introduce the suite concept.
“It was a major innovation when we launched it in 2007. But the new one really is a suite in the sense that there is a seat that is separate from the bed, making it a little home in the air.
“There are improvements in storage and entertainment, and the option to convert two neighbouring suites into one double suite.”
Like the business class seat in which I’d fallen asleep, the suites will be launched on the airline’s five new A380s. However, Mak says they will also be retro-fitted on the airline’s other 14 A380s – and, possibly, included on the 20 Boeing 777-9’s the airline has on order.
“Both the suite and the business class seat make use of much lighter composite materials,” Mak says. “Our new business seat is also structurally groundbreaking. For the first time, it allows a passenger to store their briefcase or handbag under the seat in front.”
Meanwhile Emirates Airline has just launched its own new fully-enclosed, floor-to-ceiling First class suites, using former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as the front man for a comedic advertising campaign comparing its latest generation of Boeing 777-300s to a Mercedes-Benz S sports car. The punchline – as the jet seems to rip off Clarkson’s tuxedo just as he announces the vehicle he’s reviewing has a top speed of 1200 kph – is “it even comes with pyjamas”.
Emirates has also “refreshed” its Business and Economy class cabins on its latest 777-300s (including new seats). But most of its “game-changing, first in industry” initiatives are to be found in First class (including “a zero gravity seat, designed by NASA” and “virtual windows” in the middle suites so no First class passenger need miss the views on takeoff and landing).
So how will Singapore Airline’s new Business class seat and First class suite compete with what Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have to offer?
“They will be better, certainly,” says Mr Mak. “That’s what we always strive for.”
THURSDAY, 12.30AM – JAMCO FACTORY, JAPAN
“This is exciting, but to be honest it has also been challenging,” says Harutoshi Okita, president of Jamco, before we restart our tour. Jamco (Japan Aircraft Maintenance Company) is one of a handful of elite-end aviation engineering specialists in the world.
“This business seat is state-of-the-art. We’ve worked with Singapore Airlines for many years. Their requests have always been of the highest standard but this one has made us grow.”
To explain, most airline seats are ordered (and customised) by each airline the same way you might order a tailored shirt or dress online. However, . But those airlines that consider themselves prestige carriers go the extra “air mile” when it comes to first-class and business-class passengers because they fly frequently, provide a fatter profit margin than economy passengers, and sign off on company travel policies.
I’ll spare you each manufacturing stage, except to admit I’m fascinated – not least by the absence of robots. Each business seat is handmade, labelled (13A or 13B for example) and assembled by a team working on a precise stage of the engineering process.
Three thousand individual components (from the US, Europe and Asia) go into every business seat (hence the six-figure price tag). And each team competes to have its photo on Jamco’s “wall of fame” (“And the award goes to….the guys who built 12F!”).
Soon these seats will be sent to Hamburg to be fitted into the fuselage of the second of the airline’s new A380 fleet.
THURSDAY, 12.15AM – IN-FLIGHT, TOKYO TO SINGAPORE
Yes, I’m in a Singapore Airlines business-class seat, but this one feels positively last century compared with the one I found so comfortable earlier in the day. It’s a stark reminder of how quickly aviation standards are improving, especially for those at the front of the plane.
We’re flying in a Boeing 777-300, fitted with the “Diamond Seat”, considered groundbreaking (flat bed, 15.4 inch screen, direct access to the aisle) when it was introduced by the airline in 2006 aboard its Boeing fleet – and its A380 fleet a year later.
Five years ago, the airline began fitting its “Next Gen” version of the Diamond Seat (also made at Jamco, with extra legroom, a bigger screen and other improvements) on its Airbus A350s and Boeing 777-300s. However, such is the competition among the airlines vying for the prestige market, it’s already time for a major rehaul.
FRIDAY, 11AM – A SECRET SANCTUM, SINGAPORE
On the outskirts of Changi Airport, the airline has a high-security facility that contains a life-size mock-up of the new A380 first and business-class cabins under a suitably curvaceous A380 roof. There are other mock-ups of other aircraft, other projects, in other studios, but I’m not allowed to see them.
Betty Wong, the airline’s vice-president, customer experience, is explaining the hours of passenger feedback that went into the design brief for the new A380 interior.
“We surveyed 850 business-class customers worldwide,” Wong says. “Not only our frequent customers, but those who don’t fly with us. We did the same with our first-class passengers.”
Regular business passengers recommended four improvements: More privacy; better storage without having to stand up to reach the overhead lockers; superior access to chargers, phones, laptops and entertainment options; plus more convenient seating, sleeping,eating arrangements for couples or colleagues travelling together.
Similar feedback was part part of the design of the first-class suites. The principle feedback from first-class passengers was: more privacy; better ventilation; improved working space and lighting; both a working chair and a separate comfortable bed; and the option of a double-bedded suite if you want to eat and sleep with your partner.
“It was very important to bring in our own first-class customers to test the prototypes of the new suites,” Wong says. “We made sure those customers came from different age groups, and that there was a balance of male and female passengers who fly regularly and have told us they would like to be involved in the redesign. From their feedback, we tweaked the designs.”
For example, taller first-class customers asked for a footstool in the new suite so they could keep their legs reasonably horizontal while working on their papers in the swivel chairs. The same footstool doubles as a companion chair if a couple wants to eat together when the dividing wall between two suites is down.
FRIDAY, 2PM – THE SAME SECRET SANCTUM, SINGAPORE
How is it possible to take an A380 and simultaneously achieve the following: First-class suites that are 60 per cent more spacious than the existing ones, longer and wider business class seats, and a dedicated premium economy cabin with its own dedicated toilets?
I know what you’re thinking: even less leg room in economy. Not so, says Ng Yung Han, vice-president of product innovation. “We’ve made better use of the interior space. The galleys, for example, are more compact and the toilets better distributed.”
Ng shows me the layout of the airline’s new A380s. The truth is that there will now be six first-class suites (instead of the current 12) allowing each one to be 60 per cent larger. Behind them on the upper deck will be all 78 business class seats (in a 50-20-8 configuration determined by the A380s structural engineering).
That frees the lower deck for a dedicated premium economy cabin (44 seats, where the first-class cabins used to be). Behind them are the 343 economy seats. So and here’s the question – when I next pay to travel economy, how much will I be sacrificing in terms of legroom to those on the more expensive deck upstairs?
“Absolutely nothing,” Ng says. For the record, the economy seat you and I will claim if we choose to fly on the revamped A380 is made in Germany. I’m told it is very good. Just think of it as a Ferrari Formula 1 seat.
Singapore Airlines operates regular services between Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore and other major Australian cities: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. See singaporeair.com.
Steve Meacham travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines.
SINGAPORE’S BUSINESS CLASS SEAT: THE VITAL STATISTICS
Fifteen per cent lighter and covered by a privacy-providing shell made from the carbon monoblock used in Formula 1 cars.
Seat fabric, pillows and duvets are made by Poltrano Frau – the same Italian upholsterer you’ll find in your Ferrari.
Retractable “ottoman”, so you can widen the foot space in your flat bed.
Extra “in-seat” storage (without needing to access overhead lockers).
Extra seat width (it’s 25″ compared with 18″ in the airline’s economy class). The seat converts into 78″ flat bed, with a 50″ pitch.
Larger 18″ monitor (15.4″ currently) with 1000 Krisworld channels.
Option of all middle row seats in business being able to turn into “double beds” if the central divider is fully withdrawn (newlyweds, book the six middle bulkhead seats, they’re more cosy, but not all that private).
Singapore Airlines’ business-class seat.
SINGAPORE’S FIRST CLASS SUITE: THE VITAL STATISTICS
Each suite is 60 per cent larger than original ones.
Four suites can be converted into two double suites.
Fully reclining (76″ by 27″) bed, plus separate swivel chair.
Ample desk space to spread out papers.
Wardrobes inside suite with ample storage for carry-on luggage, briefcases, laptops and so on.
A 32″ monitor, operated by a touch pad that also operates ambient lighting and beckons cabin staff).
Carpet/wallpaper designed to feel like an upmarket hotel room in the sky.
Honeycombed carbon monoblock screen designed to keep sound out, but allow air to circulate.
Singapore Airlines’ first-class suite.
WHO STILL FLIES FIRST CLASS IN 2017?
“There will always be a first class market,” says Betty Wong, Singapore Airline’s vice-president of customer experience. And yet most airlines don’t offer it, particularly since the global financial crash of 2007 and 2008.
United dropped the class in 2016 but cunningly disguised it by copyrighting “United First” as the name for its business class product. Others – some of the mainland Chinese airlines, for example – offer a first class that hardly matches business class on the elite airlines.
Then there are airlines like Virgin Australia – consistently winning awards for its business class – which see no need with its customer profile to compete at the top level.
“Our first class market is still strong,” says Wong.
So what is the typical profile of a first-class passenger in 2017? “It’s up to each company’s policy who gets to travel first class, but usually it is the chairman or chief executive. We also have a group of people who are affluent enough to travel first class. Today that includes a lot more younger people, because they have become very affluent – particularly if they’re involved in the dot.com sector.”
Commercial aviation began with only one class for an obvious reason: planes were small, narrow and only the ultra-rich could afford to fly.
Pan American is widely credited with the introduction of economy class on flights to San Juan with DC-4s in 1949 and later across the Atlantic in 1952 with DC-6Bs.
However, the first introduction of low-cost travel was the United Kingdom’s Hillman Airways, which in 1934 charged up to half what Air France was charging for a flight from London to Paris.
Business class – now the most profitable cabin per seat on any airline – was a latecomer. KLM, the Dutch carrier, pioneered it in 1978, followed by British Airways (Club Class) and Pan Am (Clipper Class), although Qantas claims to have invented the term “business class” the following year.
Over the decades, commercial aircraft quadrupled in size, culminating in the A380. The increased space and ferocious competition between airlines led to business class becoming virtually first class with seats that could switch at the touch of a button into fully reclining flat beds, superior meals and service, and a choice between privacy or companionship depending on who you are travelling with. That meant many international carriers dumped their half-empty first-class offerings.
According to Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of airlineratings.com – the independent website that ranks airline services on several criteria (including “product”, safety, service, attention to detail, food and beverage) – there’s a small list of elite airlines in the world. And the finest – Air New Zealand – doesn’t even have first class. “It is unquestionably the best airline, by any measure you like,” says Thomas.
Air New Zealand won the website’s 2018 Airline of The Year award (for the fifth consecutive year). So why no first class service?
“First class is now mainly confined to the chairmen or CEOs of very large companies, so it is limited to flights to and from large financial hubs: New York, London, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong,” Thomas explains.
“Plus the Middle East, because they’re passionate about flying first class.
“It is also retained – unprofitably – by a lot of (government-owned) Asian airlines. Malaysia Airlines has first class, but not the traffic to justify it. Thai Airlines is the same.
“Garuda Indonesia has improved dramatically in recent years, and is just about to launch a nonstop Jakarta to London flight.”
However, Thomas predicts Garuda’s first class will continue to be under-utilised.
Air New Zealand, however, decided that with so few Kiwi companies prepared to pay for their head honchos to travel first class “it just took up too much real estate, so the airline concentrated on a really good business class product that is almost as good as first class. That is where the majority of the market is”.
Yes. The pilot’s belly button, while he/ she is in a Boeing cockpit.
(Image: A representation of a belly button)
Pressing the pilot’s belly button can result in him/ her being very enraged, distracted, humiliated, scared, shocked, hurt, disappointed or confused. As a result, the pilot can then go insane, accidentally or purposely alter the flight control systems, cause chaos and eventually cause the plane to crash.
That can happen. But it wouldn’t.
No pilot will ever let anyone touch his/ her belly button in a Boeing cockpit. Similarly, no pilot will ever let you touch any button in the cockpit that will jeopardise the safety of the airplane.
But seriously, it would be extremely dangerous if Boeing placed a button in the cockpit that could down the plane. Its like having a self destruct button.
On second thought, there could be a dial andnot a button that could directly cause the plane to crash.
By turning a dial and setting the altitude on the autopilot to a ridiculously low one, the plane, regardless of Boeing or Airbus, could crash. That’s how Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed. Do check it out.
Also, please correct me if I’m wrong.
I listed some buttons that may cause the plane to have some serious problem and I am thinking while writing it.
Fuel control switch – This is the switch to cut the fuel to the engine. If you cut the fuel, the engine will stop running. However, you have 2 engines on a Boeing, 1 is enough for the plane to land safely to an alternate airport.
Fuel jettison button – Not every Boeing aircraft have this button but unfortunately, if you want to dump all the fuel, you need to press the ARM button before you push the jettison button.
IRS (Inertial Reference System) – This is a navigation system that is more precise than a GPS. First you insert your Longitude and Latitude and let the system to align (it takes about 7 minutes). This system will track all the movement from the aircraft itself to calculate the offset from your initial position to return your current position. But the alignment must be done on ground (because you can’t move). And you can turn the IRS off in the sky. Without IRS, your navigation display can’t show any information about your flight status. But, you can contact the ATC that your navigation system has a problem (well you did shut it down on purpose). But other systems are still normal, you can still fly the airplane and use VOR frequencies to navigate.
Probe heat – A pitot tube is used for measuring air flow to indicate your speed of sound, air speed and altitude. If you turn this off, the pitot tube may freeze and can’t display correct information to the pilots. However, there are two switches, one for the pilot, one for the first officer. Actually probe heat caused 3 crashes because its failure.
Looks like probe heat could be your answer. But as you see, none of them can really cause a crash. Except IRS, they have 2 switches so you have to press at least 2 of them to cause a crash (without correct the situation).
It’s almost always photographs taken from another airplane or a helicopter. And if the airplane is not flying too high then you can capture it in your camera from the ground too. Some photographers in this field use special aircraft that have an open door at the side or back giving an unrestricted view of a large part of the surrounding sky. The photographers and their equipment are strapped in and they photograph the target aircraft directly, without any intervening window to mess things up.
Clay Lacy Aviation (Van Nuys, California) does 90% of all air to air photography and filming of airplanes – for the movie industry (famous pictures such as Air Force One or Top Gun) – for airlines (new airplanes or livery and air to air TV commercials) – aircraft manufacturers (Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Canadair, Lockheed-Martin).
Have you ever watch airliners landing at night, and noticed that some have their vertical stabilizers brightly lit-up with the airline name or logo visible for quite some distance?
You may also notice that these airliners really stand out from other landing aircraft that do not have this feature. Lighted tails on airliners have been seen for the past twenty years or so, and are made possible by what are known as “logo lights” mounted in the tips of the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizers or on their upper rear fuselage, aimed directly at the tail fin at night.
These high-intensity beams serve several valuable purposes. The first is to readily identify the airline, much like a flying billboard to maximize marketing potential in and around the airport. .
Second is to enhance inflight visibility at low altitudes and in high-density traffic areas near the airport while the aircraft is taking off or on approach at night. Another important function of logo lights is ground safety, making the aircraft readily identifiable from the tower during taxiing, and highly visible to drivers of ground equipment on the ramp and near taxiways in both clear and inclement weather.
As for passengers, the Boeing 777 is beating out the A380 and the 747–8i. It is all about carrying the correct number of passengers over long routes in a very cost-effective manner and the several twin-engine versions of the 777 do that just fine. And for the slightly smaller routes there are the A350 and the Boeing 787.
Boeing will do just fine with the 747–8F and Airbus will keep bleeding money with the A380.
Enjoy your flight. I do hear that the Emirates version of the A380 is wonderful if you are in the top deck:
The Boeing 747 was, and is, never a failure. Over 1,500 747s have been built. The 747 has become one of the world’s most recognisable airplanes. The success of the 747 saved Boeing from bankruptcy.
The Boeing 747 is never a failure. It is a success. It is a symbol of Boeing. No other airplane can dethrone the 747 as the Queen Of The Skies.
So, to the person asking this question: Please don’t ever use that f-word to describe the 747 ever again, ever.
Why have all airlines started to retire their B747?
An excellent question. Here is my answer:
The Boeing 747 is a four-engine airliner, first produced in 1968. It has been in service for over 47 years since January 22, 1970. Right now, the 747 is quickly being retired from passenger service, but it will likely remain in service as cargo freighters for a while. In fact, the 747 was originally designed to be a freighter. With the cockpit situated on the upper deck, the colossal nose of the plane could serve as a large cargo door, like so:
Today, most of the 747s slated to be retired are the passenger variants of the 747–400, and a handful of earlier models (for instance, the 747–300). The most recently updated 747 models, the 747–8I and 747–8F (pictured above), were introduced in 2011. (I = intercontinental [i.e. passenger variant], F = freighter variant) They are not going to get retired any time soon.
The 747 has been continuously improved and refined by Boeing throughout the years. Boeing makes new variants of the 747 to help keep it up to date and more appealing to travellers, and of course, to compete with the ginormous Airbus A380. But the overarching intent of Boeing is always to reduce fuel consumption of its planes as much as possible and ultimately to minimise operating costs for airlines.
This is paramount for operators. Today’s airlines buy and operate planes that suit the routes they operate, consume the least fuel and have the lowest operating costs, in order to maximise profits while offering competitive prices to travellers.
Even though the 747 has received refinements over the generations to reduce fuel consumption, such as new engines and winglets, one design remains: the need for four engines to operate. The more engines a plane has, the more fuel it will consume, the more expensive it will be to operate, the more amount of maintenance work it will need, and ultimately, the less lucrative it will be. The 747’s design is simply outdated, because there are much more efficient airplanes today that are on par with the 747’s performance. Airlines are also shifting towards the use of smaller airplanes with range similar to the 747.
The last time the 747 was widely successful was when the 747–400 debuted more than 29 years ago, in 1988. At that time, the quad-engine 747 was probably considered the most ideal plane for long-haul flights. It was one of the few airliners that could fly transoceanic flights, between Asia and America, for example. At that time, less fuel hungry twin engine planes like the 767 and Airbus A300 were limited to flights not too far away from a diversionary airport. This was because twin engine planes were perceived to be less reliable and should one engine fail, it was assumed that the plane would be in critical danger. As such, these planes must always be in close proximity to a suitable airport that allowed for an emergency landing. This meant no flying over remote areas, i.e. over oceans. Hence, Boeing was able to sell the four engine 747–400 successfully during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
However, during the mid 1990s, a pivotal change in FAA regulations allowed the Boeing 767 to fly 3 hours (180 minutes) away from a diversionary airport for the first time, opening up the possibility of transoceanic flights operated by a twin-engine plane. This regulation was known as ETOPS, or Extended Operations, that basically permits how far a twin engine airliner can be away from a diversionary airport. The 767 was not a counterpart to the 747, as it was smaller. But coincidentally around this time, the eventual successor of the 747 was also born. It is the Boeing 777. Despite offering slightly less seating capacity, this plane has a similar range to that of the 747, and it has two engines, not four. As I have mentioned previously, airlines look for airplanes that are the most profitable. Remember, the more engines a plane has, the less lucrative it will be. Hence, in the eyes of airlines, the 777 is far more efficient and profitable than the 747, and it picked up orders rapidly.
The Boeing 767 pioneered twin engine, long haul oceanic flights, jeopardising the 747’s route monopoly (and the DC 10’s, but that airplane is not in the question and I don’t want to make this answer any more complicated). Then the 777 entered the market and in a way, became an inadvertent competitor to the 747. The 777 sold stupendously well, and has amassed over 1,900 orders to date, with over 1,500 delivered in just over 23 years since first flight in 1994.
The 777 was first introduced into service in 1995. Today, the 777–300ER (ER = extended range) is one of the most ubiquitous modern wide body jetliner. Many airlines opt to replace the 747 with the 777, because it is much more fuel efficient, much less expensive to operate, it is new and it matched the performance of the 747. The 747–400, the most popular 747 model, has served many airlines well but not only are they less profitable, they are ageing.
This is a representation of the average age of aircraft types in Delta Air Line’s fleet on airfeets.net:
(Blue numbers mean number of airplanes of their respective type in the fleet)
These statistics aren’t the most reliable but you get the gist of it: the 747s are way older than the 777s.
Boeing has been producing the 777 so expeditiously that it took just over 23 years for the 1,500th 777 to be produced, whereas for the 747, it took more than 45 years to achieve the same feat. Most of the older 747s are retired, so the 747s left to be retired “soon” are the passenger-carrying 747–400s. With so many new 777s delivered to many operators (and future ex-operators) of the 747, like United Airlines, and with no new 747–400s made, it is justifiable that older airplanes need to be removed from service so newer airplanes can enter service. The passenger versions of the 747–400s are all 15–20 years old by now and their time is up. The deterioration of the 747s from use instinctively prompts many passenger airlines to retire them from service. Concurrently, the 777 arrives at a very opportune time to give airlines a great, new, more efficient airplane to replace their ageing and less lucrative 747s.
In conclusion, the 747’s obsolete 47+ year old design that requires four engines to fly (ideally), the introduction of revised ETOPS regulations, and the arrival of the twin engine 777 airplane at the right time contributed to the retirement of the passenger-carrying 747s. This all boils down to airlines choosing to operate the most profitable airplanes with the most efficient designs.
There’s a video that explains ETOPS in much more detail and another video that details the economics of four engine airplanes versus twin engine airplanes. This video also covers the trending concept of “long and skinny” airplane routes, that is plied by the beautiful Boeing 787s. These routes reduce demand for one flight operated by one large airplane with many seats (like the 747) in favour of multiple flights plied by smaller airplanes. Please feel free to check them out as they provide a comprehensive answer to the question.
Update: Check out United Airline’s farewell video for the 747. The last flight of United’s ‘Queen of the Skies’ was on November 7, 2017.
It’s not a shock to many that the aircraft that holds the nation’s leader, President Barack Obama, is equipped with advanced security features as well as out of this world luxury. We have already taken an extensive look at the car that has the privilege of transporting the President around. And the aircraft is no different, it is better known as Air Force One. The plane features three levels and stands as tall as a 6 story building. It is a custom Boeing 747-200B that has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space, including a conference room, dining room, private quarters for the president, offices for senior staff members, a medical operating room (a doctor flies on every flight), press area, and two food-preparation galleys that can provide 100 meals. Needless to say, this flying home is unlike anything else in the sky. Because of that, Air Force One is the most expensive plane to operate, costing taxpayers $206,337 every hour it is in flight. But what most people don’t know are the security features that this plane has.
Did you know that there are actually two customized Boeing 747-200B jets that regularly fly under this designation? They are nearly identical and are almost as tall as a six-story building, and as long as a city block.
The plane is completely off-limits to just about everybody. Even visiting politicians aren’t allowed in some parts of the plane, and the Air Force is careful to conceal specific details of the craft’s layout including its advanced avionics and defenses.
Every Air Force One flight is classified as a military operation, which necessitates the following procedure: The Marine One Helicopter transports the president from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The Air Force inspects the runway and aircraft, and then transports the president’s motorcade to his super plane.
Garcinia Cambogia – Garcinia Cambogia Save is the leading Garcinia Cambogia distributor in the country and has helped over 100,000 successfully lose weight.
Air Force One is maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group, which is part of the White House Military Office.
The onboard electronics are hard-wired to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and Air Force One is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States.
Along with various private quarters for staff and guests, there are two kitchens and a medical suite which is equipped with supplies in case there is a need for emergency surgery.
Air Force One has four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 jet engines, which provide 56,700 pounds of thrust a piece. The top speed is between 630 and 700 miles per hour and the ceiling maximum (i.e how high the plane can fly) is 45,100 feet about 10,000 feet more than a normal commercial plane.
I love the description the White House gives in regards to Air Force One: “Air Force One is one of the most recognizable symbols of the presidency, spawning countless references not just in American culture but across the world. Emblazoned with the words “United States of America,” the American flag, and the Seal of the President of the United States, it is an undeniable presence wherever it flies.”
When Airbus and BoeingCo.BA 0.02% announce orders at the Farnborough International Airshow this week, they will value the deals based on the planes’ catalog prices—which no one pays. Airline executives, when pressed for details, will probably say they got “a great deal.” But actual terms will remain guarded like nuclear launch codes.
The aviation industry’s code of silence on pricing is notable in this era of information overload. Thousands of people world-wide are involved in airplane purchases, yet few numbers spill out. That yields much mystery and speculation.
“The whole model is wacky,” says Robert Milton, chairman of Air Canada parent Ace Aviation Holdings Inc., who says he approximates the real price of announced multibillion-dollar orders by cutting the stated value in half.
Manufacturers acknowledge haggling, and recently have traded accusations of starting a price war. Even in sales that aren’t hotly contested, customers placing big orders get lower prices, as do early buyers of new models.
“Discounts do vary, primarily based on volume,” says John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers at the Airbus unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. Mr. Leahy declined to specify the variation or to discuss prices of specific deals.
Boeing’s vice president for airplane marketing, Randy Tinseth, says “there are many levers you can pull” in a contract. He wouldn’t discuss details.
But there are ways to estimate the range of discounts. An analysis of public data by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with numerous industry officials yielded this: Discounts seem to vary between roughly 20% and 60%, with an average around 45%. Savvy buyers don’t pay more than half the sticker price, industry veterans say. But deal specifics differ greatly.
Part of the reason prices vary so much and are hard to pin down is that airplane contracts are complex. The documents can run to hundreds of pages, with sections covering structures, engines, cabin interiors, spare parts, operating performance and training. And just as airlines can make cheap tickets expensive with lots of additional fees, a jetliner that starts out looking like a bargain may quickly cost more when extras such as onboard equipment get added to the tab, further clouding the actual price.
Airlines also generally order lots of planes at once, for delivery over many years. So the real price of each plane in a single order can differ significantly due to inflation. The adjustments to account for this, known as escalation formulas, can erase much of an initial discount in just a few years, airline executives say.
One reason for the secrecy surrounding all this, say industry officials, is psychology: Less-experienced plane buyers like to think they got a bargain and don’t want to be embarrassed if they overpaid. The safest approach then is silence. More-seasoned plane buyers also know that bragging about discount specifics would anger Airbus, Boeing or other producers and hurt the chances of striking a sweetheart deal again.
Hints Are Dropped
However divorced from reality catalog prices are, they do have some uses. One is marketing.
“The list price enables the manufacturers to have large, splashy headlines about the size of the deals they’re doing,” says Gary Liebowitz, an analyst at the Wells Fargo Securities unit of Wells Fargo & Co.
Published prices also are the basis for the progress payments plane buyers fork over as a plane is being built, Mr. Liebowitz notes. Higher list prices mean bigger deposits.
As for actual prices, airlines occasionally let numbers slip, either because of disclosure requirements or loose tongues.
Southwest AirlinesCo.LUV -0.09% , for example, recently published numbers related to its new order for Boeing 737 Max jetliners in a government filing. Mr. Liebowitz of Wells Fargo crunched the data and estimated an actual base price of roughly $35 million per plane, or a discount of around 64%. He noted that Southwest is one of Boeing’s best customers and that early buyers of new models get preferential pricing. A Southwest spokeswoman declined to comment.
Air India, in seeking funding last year for seven Boeing 787 Dreamliners it expects to receive this year, cited an average “net cost” of about $110 million per plane. The current list price is roughly $194 million, suggesting a 43% discount. Air India didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article.
In March 2011, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot mentioned in a securities filing that it would pay at most $1.16 billion for eight Boeing 777s, which at the time represented a discount of 47%. Company representatives at the time said they had no details of the deal.
A senior Thai Airways International official was widely quoted in 2007 as saying the state-owned carrier had received discounts on Airbus A330 aircraft amounting to roughly 50%. A Thai Airways spokeswoman declined to comment on airplane pricing for this article.
Smaller price cuts have been reported for some other airlines. Biman Bangladesh Airlines in 2008 ordered Boeing 777s and 787s at prices cited by the national news agency representing discounts of between 20% and 33%. Biman didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article.
Other hints can be gleaned from information Boeing makes public. Each year the manufacturer publishes the contracted value of its order backlog. Separately, it lists the planes in its backlog and their catalog prices. Crunching all these numbers yields an average discount over recent years of about 45%.
Two decades ago, discounts were just a few percent, say industry old-timers. The widening gap points to an unspoken dynamic in jetliner pricing: Plane makers regularly raise their catalog prices and airlines continually bargain those prices down. As a result, actual prices for popular models have barely budged in years, say insiders. Assuming that trend continues, one aspect of airliner pricing looks clear: Discounts will keep growing.