"People talking about the demise of the 747 are a little premature," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally, responding to questions that the market for the manufacturer's venerable jumbo jet was drying up.

"This is one very economical aircraft," he said. "It is the only large airplane that is around the 400-passenger size and it is still very compelling for our customers. After 33 years of improving the 747 every year it is one efficient airplane - we couldn't make a better airplane than the 747."

Although Boeing's market forecasts do see a modest market for the 747-400, or future derivatives, of around 500 aircraft over the next 20 years, Mulally said airline choices for larger types are "going to come back to economics".

This means achieving high load factors for the seat mile costs to make sense.

In addition, airlines will "have to balance how many big aircraft they have in their portfolio," said Mulally, as their sheer cost represents a more significant financial risk to their balance sheet. Mulally ruled out Boeing ever producing an aircraft significantly larger than the 747 because "the market is relatively small".

Source: Flight Daily News