SEATTLE -- A big order from cargo carrier UPS has breathed new life into Boeing's 747 program.
Boeing executives in recent months were conceding the 747 production line might shut down. But UPS on Thursday announced it was ordering 14 new 747-8 freighters with an option for 14 more.
At a production rate of 1/2 airplane per month, or six per year, that represents about two years and three months of work. The number essentially doubles the current backlog for the jet.
UPS flies 747 freighters now, but they are all older 747-400s. Brendan Canavan, who heads UPS Airlines, says the aircraft are part of a "strategic investment for increased capacity."
The world cargo market has proved frustrating for aircraft manufacturers for years. The 747 freighter occupies a unique space in the market, not only for its size but the fact that long cargo can be loaded through the nose. But the program has still struggled to garner orders.
The passenger version of the 747 has struggled even more and the giant, double-deck Airbus 380 has also struggled as a passenger jet.
Airbus does not offer a freighter version of the A380.