There are few who can make a case against the Boeing 747 as the most majestic and beautiful airliner in the sky. Â I love the 747 (any variant) for its unique shape and instant recognition; you just won’t find folks lining up to tell you about the classic lines of the A380. Â Originally released in 1970, the Queen of the Skies has defined the term “jumbo jet” for multiple generations. Â But, despite the 747’s 40+ years as a long-haul mainstay for airlines around the world, is the future of the 747 and its latest variant, the 747-8, in jeopardy?
The Fiero Problem
The issue doesn’t seem to be that the 747 has gotten stale in its old age (in fact, Boeing’s latest version features new engines, a redesigned wing, a fuselage stretch, and advanced avionics; some might argue that Boeing spent WAY too much capital on a plane with so few orders). Â Rather, the problem seems to be that other planes have gotten so much better. Â This reminds me of that 80’s darling, the Pontiac Fiero, and its cool uncle, the Chevrolet Corvette.
GM and Pontiac built the Fiero from 1984-1988. Â A mid-engined, two-seater sports car with sharp (for the 80’s) looks, the Fiero did a lot of things well that the Corvette also was known for. Â Although not officially acknowledged by GM as a reason for ending the program, enthusiasts maintain that GM killed the Fiero because it was encroaching on the performance envelope of the ‘Vette, at lower acquisition and operating costs. Â Sound familiar? Â If you’ve ever flown on a Boeing 777, it should.