End of supplier puts 747 production at risk

Triumph Group, responsible for the production of Boeing’s jet structure, has just auctioned off the manufacturing gear used since the 1960s.

The age of two-deck passenger jets seems to be over. After Airbus decided to shut down production of the A380 this year, Boeing now faces the possible end of line for the iconic 747.

But in the case of the US manufacturer, it may be a forced decision. The reason involves the Triumph Group, which has been responsible for producing the main “Jumbo” structures for over 50 years. The company is closing two of its plants, including the 747 parts unit at Los Angeles’ small Hawthorne Airport.

The manufacturing gear used to produce the 747 parts was auctioned this week after years when Triumph racked up losses. In fact, orders for Boeing’s largest passenger jet have been scarce in recent years and there are currently only 18 units left to complete, all of the 747-8F cargo version.

Boeing denies end

Despite evidence that there is no more market for Jumbo, Boeing has denied the aircraft’s end of line. “We are continuing to build 747-8s to meet the backlog of orders for the airplane and will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production line healthy,” Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman told Bloomberg.

However, the scenario is adverse. The manufacturer today has an aircraft almost as large as the 747, but infinitely more economical, the 777X twin engine, but not even its obvious operating efficiency has been enough to attract new customers. Emirates Airline, its largest customer, has just reduced its order from 150 to 126 units, part replaced by the smaller 787-9.

And what could be the fate of the four-engine aircraft that received its first order in 1966 from the extinct Pan Am (and was responsible for Triumph’s first supply contract)? It is more than clear that Jumbo has already fulfilled its mission even more if we consider the difficulty for Boeing in enabling a new frame assembly line.

As Triumph is expected to deliver parts to the missing 747, there is no need to take action until further orders are made, which is a very unlikely hypothesis.

So it may have been the beginning of the end for the most symbolic passenger jet in history.

Boeing plant in the 1970s: Triumph Group is responsible for providing 747 structure since Pan Am’s first order