Boeing 747 program gets stay of execution

EVERETT — UPS gave Boeing’s 747 program a boost Thursday with orders for 14 747-8 freighters.

That doubled the struggling program’s backlog to 31, which includes two passenger versions that will be used as Air Force One, the president’s airplane.

At the current production rate of six planes a year, that is five years of work.

All the UPS planes will be new-build 747s, said Mary Kelly, a Boeing spokeswoman.

“These aircraft are a strategic investment for increased capacity for UPS customers around the globe,” UPS Airlines president Brendan Canavan said in a news release. “The 747-8 will allow UPS to upsize our network in both new and existing markets.”

Orders for 747s had slowed to a trickle in recent years, and Boeing slashed production to a crawl to avoid having to stop making the iconic airplane.

Boeing recently announced that it is closing a Macon, Georgia, plant that was to start making 747 fuselage panels. Boeing had in-sourced the work from supplier Triumph Group, which, now, will continue making the components.

Many industry analysts have been predicting that the 747 would close by the end of the decade as airlines are less and less interested in huge, four-engine airplanes. In July, Boeing officials acknowledged that is a possibility, but have insisted that the company expects the line will stay open, serving a niche market.

So far, the company has delivered 109 747-8 passenger and freighter airplanes since it was introduced.

”Our sales team is working aggressively and has been to keep 747 orders coming in,” Kelly said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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