Korean Air To Sell Boeing 747-8s

Daniel Fowkes
10 May 2024
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 
Korean Air will sell five of its Boeing 747-8 jets to help develop a successor to the Boeing E-4 Nightwatch programme.

Korean Air has announced it’ll sell five Boeing 747-8 jets to Sierra Nevada Corporation to develop the successor to the E-4B.

As part of the sale revealed in a filing, Reuters sources confirmed the aircraft being sold would be the 747-8 with Korean Air. Ultimately, this is the last iteration of the renowned queen of the skies.

The sale is worth USD 674 million and aligns with Korean Air’s goal of modernising its fleet to include more next-generation aircraft. The five units are expected to be officially sold in September 2025.

Significant importance has been placed on the fleet within Korean Air as the company looks towards integrating with Asiana Airlines. While the 747-8s offer substantial capacity, they have become increasingly less favourable for airlines as the move towards twin-engine next-generation aircraft accelerates.

Once the five Boeing 747-8s are removed, the airline will only have four passenger 747-8s in its fleet. Ultimately, this excludes the single VIP transporter offered to the Republic of Korea Air Force.

As Korean Air looks to phase out the 747-8, it ultimately represents another customer choosing to retire the aircraft in favour of other jets. The 747-8s’ upcoming retirement will also align with the previously announced Airbus A380 retirement for the South Korean company.

As a result, Korean Air will need a significant boost in capacity, as these superjumbos will reduce the available seats across several high-profile routes.

A New Doomsday Plane

The E-4B Nightwatch, also known as its Doomsday Plane, has risen to be a renowned asset for military use. The aircraft is capable of flight and survival as a critical command post if a nuclear war breaks out.

Built in 1974 as an E-4A and modified to E-4B standard in 1984. The type is now known as the Nightwatch. Operated as an Advanced Airborne Command Post by the 1st Airborne Command Control Squadron, part of the 595th Command and Control Group at Offut AFB, Nebraska. Seen while supporting a Presidential visit to Europe and the UK. RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, UK.

However, these E-4Bs are undoubtedly beginning to show signs of age, and as part of a plan unveiled that includes Sierra Nevada Corporation, a U.S. firm, the journey to building a successor is underway.

Building an aircraft from scratch for the program wouldn’t be perceived as the most ideal way to be efficient. However, utilising an existing 747-8 canvas is deemed incredibly useful.

Thus, a process was required to find an airline willing to offload the aircraft type. While a challenge, if secured, it would be a huge bonus for all parties involved. In the case of Korean Air and their 747-8s, it was ultimately decided a deal would be easiest to strike.

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