Boeing’s Unreleased 747X To Rival The A380

Concept renderings of Boeing's unreleased 747X series, including the 747X Stretch, 747X Stretch Freight, 747X and 747-400X.

Nowadays, the industry has changed dramatically regarding what aircraft companies desire. At one point in the industry, the era of quad jets was well and truly alive.

Each manufacturer was busy exploring ways to end the dominance at Boeing that they were seeing with their 747 series.

Whether it be with the A380 being studied at the time as the A3XX or the McDonnell Douglas MD-12, these manufacturers attempted to find ways to compete better and to end Boeing’s firm grip.

Boeing’s Desires To Extend Its Dominance

While all these competitors were finding ways to beat Boeing, the American plane maker had ideas. These ideas were to generally enhance its portfolio and grip on the quad engine sector and for long-haul travel too.

Unfortunately for Boeing, or maybe fortunately, however you choose to look at it, many of their studies never eventuated to anything.

In the end, the only thing they would decide to move forward with the 747 -8 as a means to continue the 747 program for those who desired it.

As for the A380, it experienced a similar fate to the 747-8. It struggled to find a solid customer base that desired its capabilities over the long term.

At that point, the majority of customers were already moving away from such planes with high capacity and four engines.

Examining The Boeing 747X

The 747X was labeled as the A380 Rival or A380 Killer. Even before the birth of the 777X, Boeing explored utilising X at the end of their aircraft programs to identify them as an upgrade.

If the 747X had progressed, what would it entail? Well, if Boeing had advanced with the upgraded aircraft, it would need to possess qualities that would see carriers want to invest in it.

Initial discussions identified a wing refinement that would see technology utilised on the 777 at the time heavily applied to the 747X. This was an essential means to improve efficiency and make it a worthwhile upgrade.

The Many 747X Proposed Variants.

There were initially plans to create a whole line of the 747X, which would include variants from the 747-500X to the 747-700X, each harbouring different capacity and range capabilities.

There were a lot of concerns already present with such variants. After much deliberation, Boeing would look towards refining the designs on its 747X by removing these variants initially speculated and rumoured. This aimed to align with what they believed to be the way forward.

It determined that a 747X and an advanced 747X stretch would be the best means for long-term success. The two would equally serve a purpose per Boeing and also be an upgrade on existing planes with new technology implemented.

As the name would suggest, the stretch version would increase the aircraft’s overall length. In turn, raising its passenger capacity. The 747X stretch is where Boeing saw the potential primarily.

The 747X Stretch was slated to carry around 500 passengers, whereas the smaller 747X would focus more on 430. These numbers are not final and heavily depend on customers’ potential configurations.

Still, Boeing was thinking long-term even at this point. It needed to ensure the plane would have a future without relying on passenger operations.

The company was also studying ways to develop the 747X into a freight, with a heavy emphasis on utilising the plane for freighter purposes.

Red Flags Continue To Emerge For 747X

However, unsurprisingly, there were red flags for the 747X program that were more than present. Similar red flags that many would argue were present for the 747-8 as well.

One of the biggest concerns was that of interest. Now, while this was just one concern, it was essential.

These manufacturers were already beginning to see a massive shift in the desires laid out by companies worldwide. So, was there a need for high-capacity jets at specific carriers?

Most would say yes, but it was dwindling at this point in the industry, and how customers were looking for high-capacity was also changing, favouring more efficient types.

It wasn’t just the interest that ultimately played a part in the demise of the 747X, though. The significant costs associated were a big deterrence as well for the plane maker.

To launch a clean sheet is expensive. Sometimes, therefore, a cheaper more beneficial alternative can be developing an existing model with enhancements. While expensive, it can act as an essential short-term solution.

Ultimately, for Boeing, costs were beginning to balloon out for the program, deterring them from progressing and instead finding more cost-efficient means to offer long-haul options to customers.

Daniel Fowkes
28 Oct 2023
· Aircraft 

Leave a Reply

  1. Personally, I think people are not looking for a 55year old design. Great as it was the 747 is dates, even with new wing tech etc even might I suggest 2 much bigger engines rather than 4 still wouldn’t look new. Yes. Anew pane takes much more up front investments hoops to jump through etc, but with a 747 replaced by a Boeing 808 would, as the 707, start Boeing in a new future, that which made them so staff out to begin with. Currently it’s the MDl management carry over that has reduced beings safety and problem solving, and will stifle the next move forward that this offers a chance of.

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