AvGeek-in-training: How to tell Boeing 747s apart
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It’s the Queen of the Skies. And, you’d better fly one soon if you haven’t already. No U.S. airlines operate this majestic aircraft, and several of the carriers that were still flying the double-decker giants have either grounded them or are planning to phase them out. That includes those operated by British Airways among others.
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The last passenger version of the 747-400 was delivered to Air China in 2005. The production line is now closed, but there were as many as 350 such aircraft still flying at least until COVID-19 hit and sent demand plummeting.
British Airways says it’s because the air travel recovery will take years. BA also notes that these four-engine jets just aren’t as fuel-efficient as their modern counterparts.
Pre-pandemic there were also around 120 747-8 in the wild, notably in the hands of Lufthansa and Korean.
You’ll still find 747s operated by Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa, among others, but the continued weakness in international travel means they might have shorter lifetimes than first thought. All U.S.-based carriers had retired their 747s by the end of the 2010s.
Related: Boeing ending production of the 747
Like the A330, the Boeing 747-400 features canted winglets. You’re not likely to confuse the two aircraft, however as the 747 has a GIANT second story that the A330 doesn’t have.
The Boeing 747-8, meanwhile, features raked wingtips like you’d find on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In addition, the Boeing 747-8 features chevrons that are notched into the nacelles of the engine, just like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
That’s the easiest way to distinguish between these two models of Queens of the Sky (see chart below).
If you want more AvGeek coverage check out our other posts on identifying aircraft in the “wild”: How to tell commercial aircraft apart.
Additional reporting by Zach Griff and Clint Henderson.
Featured image by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images.
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