Also many fair points and none that I disagree with. I didn't note above that IMO the 748 was in many ways a spoiler by Boeing to try and mud the A380 market. Perhaps it worked by keeping it at the size it is. We might never know.Fair pointsMany in the industry said years ago before it even hit the skys that it is going against industry trends with Boeing also of the same view that the future is in twin jets and only kept the B747 program going more for its freighter customers than passenger. The last passenger B747 left the assembly line a year or so ago. You'd have to wonder with shrinking 747 orders what sort of presentation the guys did to the board to get it approved.I think you're being a bit too generous to Boeing here - they went into the 748 with a pretty strong passenger commitment, but i think what serendipitously worked for them is that the 747 design has the range and strength to also do freight, whereas the A380 was designed for passenger only and freight was never a serious consideration in the A380 design. IMO Boeing lucked in that they could still make freighters, but even so, the 777 freighters can do a better job and with he numbers of second hand 777s coming up soon, id be thinking that a P2F program will also come,
Tough times ahead for Airbus!
Also, I think Airbus are now looking better. Without the A380 to focus on they can tweak the A350 into longer range variants that don't have to work about competing with the A380. So many resources in the A380 program can now be thrown at the A350 (and A330/A220 to some extent) and really make those frames work well.
Boeing knew the 747 pax was on borrowed time. They had previously gone to the market and asked about a fully DD 747 and got limited interest that didn't justify the cost. The 747-8i seating is only marginal (10% more) increase over the 777 and the airlines were telling them 2 engines are cheaper than 4.
So if you want a 4 engine plane to stack up on economics it needs to be +600, maybe even 700 people. No one wants a 3 engine plane so that's out and building a DD plane with 4 x GE90's (777 engine) hanging off it would probably see the wing structural engineers run for cover. To go for an engine between that of 747 and 777 forces the engine suppliers to invest in new model engine designed for one plane, read cost.
I suspect the 47 or so orders they got for the 747-8i was purely by airlines that couldn't get a A380 in the time frame needed, adding to their existing 747 fleet, and/or not comfortable with such a large investment or confidence for Airbus to deliver in time and this was true as the A380 was delayed a few years.
For Boeing the 747-8i was a low risk investment. They had the basic tried and trusted platform design from 747-400 and they had an existing a reliable customer base for the Freighter version to under write some of the investment required for the 747-8i. They also knew that there would be a few orders at least for Presidential planes, both US and foreign especially if word got out the 747 production is coming to an end as many heads of state will only travel in four engine planes and the A380 is too over the top. As it was the Boeing 747 manufacturing rate was actually linked to the expected US Presidential planes required in originally 2023 to 2025 with these two planes likely the end of the 747 production. However this changed when the Air Force agreed to use the two unsold planes that have never left Boeing's custody which will now be partially dismantled and rebuilt some enormous cost (I assume nothing changed on this).
Additional evidence that Boeing did not see a bright future for the 747 is that the 747 was never part of their Yellowstone project, ie three new cleansheet air-frames by 2030. 787, 777-X and a new 737. However it looks like it will now be four new airframes with Boeing investigating a new 767 to take on the A330.
Anyway, it looks like there are about 20 more 747's to build at roughly one every 2mths and that will be it. I was at Boeing in 2003 and they were building then one every 6 days, down from 2-3 week and they thought that was slow.
The problem with the A350, is how much more tweaking does it have left in it, its only a few metres shorter than 777. Can yu extend without the tail hitting on take off? Not challenging, just asking.
Re A350 - I've avoided the threads on that at airliners.net but might have to dive in now and see what it's about. From what I know about QF's project Sunrise it is not as large as the 777 but comes close and so might be able to occupy a niche below that and above the A330 which is itself just above the 787 fleets. There are many subypes in this category, and perhaps the solution is to go smaller with the A350 and do away with making new A330 models thereby dominating that size range?