One of the Boeing 747’s most traditional customers, El Al Israel Airlines has confirmed it will withdraw its last three aircraft (747-400 models) by the end of October. The Israeli airline was one of the first to order the jet, having started commercial flights with the aircraft in 1971, when it received two 747-200.
Earlier this month, El Al retired the oldest 747 of its fleet, a model of the series -400 that flew by the company for 25 years and accumulated more than 11,000 flights. In nearly 50 years of operations with the Boeing giant, the Israeli company had a total of 23 aircraft in the -100, -200, -300, -400 and -400F versions.
El Al has been replacing its 747-400 since 2017 by the 787-9 Dreamliner, which already has 11 units in the fleet. By 2020, the company will receive another five aircraft. Another classic airplane retired by the company recently was the 767, which served by the company for 36 years.
In 1991, El Al Boeing 747 were key pieces in Operation Solomon, organized by the Israeli military. The company’s planes were involved in evacuation of Jews from Ethiopia, who were facing civil war at the time.
The operation has moved more than 14,000 refugees between the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Tel Aviv in Israel, with half of them being transported on El Al aircraft. On one of these flights, a 747 of the company took off with a total of 1,122 passengers, which remains to this day as the largest number of people transported aboard a commercial airliner.
The end of the four-engines
The era of large four-engine jets in commercial aviation is moving toward the end. With the introduction of more efficient twin-engine widebodies, planes such as the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380 have failed to prove to be efficient.
In addition to El Al, other major operators of the 747 also announced that they will retire their planes soon. The list includes companies like Lufthansa, Air France, Delta, British Airways, among others.
The last segment of the 747 in commercial aviation is the cargo sector, where the airplane still has great opportunities. A number of models currently in service in passenger transport can be converted to carry cargo and should continue to fly for a longer period. The cargo version is also what keeps the 747-8 in production, since Boeing no longer has orders for the passenger variant.