Boeing to slow 747 production on weak demand

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. will reduce 747-8 jet production due to lower demand for large passenger and freighter aircraft, the company said Friday.

The jet maker will cut production from two to 1.75 aircraft monthly. Boeing said it plans to monitor market demand. The company still predicts a global demand for 790 large aircraft, such as the 747 and Airbus A380, over the the next 20 years.

The announcement came one day after Boeing said it will lay off as many as 700 engineering workers in the commercial airplanes division. Overall, Boeing will cut its engineering staff by 1,500 to 1,700 workers this year through layoffs and attrition. Those layoffs are unrelated to the slowdown in 747 production, Doug Alder, Boeing spokesman, wrote in an email.

Boeing has not made a determination about whether additional layoffs will be necessary due to the slowing of the 747, Alder said.

The Chicago-based company also had previously announced layoffs of more than 800 Machinists in the Puget Sound region. That reduction in employment was also unrelated to decreased production on the 747 line, Alder wrote.

The company will deliver the first 747-8 built at the lower rate in 2014.

Boeing has received 110 orders for the passenger and freighter versions of the updated 747-8. The company has delivered 46 747-8s so far.

“The passenger variant’s got five years on the market at most,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va.-based aerospace forecaster who has done work for Boeing. “It’s part of a broader problem, which is that the market for large quad jets is small, and getting smaller.”

Boeing launched the latest version of its iconic jumbo jet in 2005, delivering the first 747-8 freighter in late 2011. Orders for the passenger plane, dubbed the Intercontinental, have been even harder to come by. Boeing won the first order for the 747-8 passenger plane in late 2006 and delivered the first of those in early 2012.

Boeing began taking orders for the original 747 in 1966 and established its massive factory in Everett to build the “Queen of the Skies.”

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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