Boeing has decided to cut the production rate of the 747-8 from 1.3 to one airplane per month starting in March of next year, the company confirmed Wednesday. The move comes as the firm order backlog for the quad-jets has dwindled to 32 airplanes, a figure that represents some two years of production at the current rate. Boeing has progressively culled rates on the 747-8 since April 2013, when it announced a decision to slow production from two airplanes to 1.75 per month. In October that same year it announced plans to reduce the rate to 1.5 per month, then in December last year it decided to slow the rate to 1.3 effective this September.
Boeing announced the latest adjustment only days after events took an optimistic turn with a commitment from Russia’s Volga-Dnepr covering 20 of the freighter version of the jumbo jets. The deal, signed on June 17 at the Paris Air Show, also covers the availability of the operator’s Antonov An-124-100 to help Boeing transport sections of airliners. Volga-Dnepr said it would purchase or lease the 747-8s over the next seven years.
“With recent orders and MOUs and these changes announced today, we anticipate a stable future for the production system,” said Boeing in a statement issued to AIN. “We continue to believe in the long-term strength of the freighter market and the 747-8 is uniquely positioned to capture this demand; of note is the 747-400 Freighter replacement market which begins next decade...We are continuing to look at a range of investments to both enhance the long-term stability of the 747-8 production line and performance of the aircraft.”
Anticipated long-term trends in the market for large cargo aircraft, according to Boeing, point to a bright future for the 747-8F in particular, despite an extended period of slow sales up until now.
“The market drives our production rate and we adjust accordingly to keep our business running smoothly,” the company said. “We are making the right decisions to allow us to continue to run a healthy business with a change to our production rate...The 747-8 is a great airplane; we stand behind its capabilities and believe it serves a unique need in the market.”