Cancellations leave Boeing with zero 747 orders in 2015

Nippon Cargo Airlines has cancelled orders for four 747-8 freighters, leaving Boeing with no net orders for 2015 so far, according to the airplane maker.

The aerospace giant has seen only weak demand for its biggest airplane in recent years. Airlines have been wary of ordering big, four-engine passenger jets, and the air cargo market has very slowly recovered since being hit by the global recession in 2008.

At $379.1 million, it has the second-highest price tag of all Boeing commercial airplanes. That means Nippon Cargo’s cancellation is worth more than $1.5 billion at list price. However, an airplane’s actual price is often well below the sticker price after sales negotiations.

With lackluster demand for jumbo jets, it is likely Nippon Cargo was getting a steep discount.

Boeing still has four 747-8 jumbo jets — including two freighters — parked in storage in Arizona, according to the 747-8 Report blog.

The company is stepping down 747 production rate starting this month, when it goes from making 1.5 to 1.3 airplanes a month. It plans to cut that rate to 1 747-8 a month in March next year.

Industry watchers have speculated for several years that Boeing will stop making the iconic airplane in the next few years.

Earlier this year, the head of Boeing Business Jets said VIP demand could keep the 747 line alive for a few more years. The U.S. Air Force wants two customized 747-8s to use for ferrying around the U.S. president.

It has orders for 29 747-8s — 16 passenger versions and 13 freighters, according to the website. It appears that number has not been adjusted to account for Nippon Cargo’s cancellation.

The Tokyo-based airline placed orders for a total of 14 747-8 freighters between 2005 and 2007. It received eight of those between 2011 and 2013, and it still has two on order after its cancellation.

Boeing has delivered 94 747-8 jets since 2011.

The company came to Everett in 1967 to assemble its new 747, which revolutionized long-haul air travel.

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

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