View Full Version : Aerospace Notebook: 'Father' of 747 says it might endure

12th Jan 2005, 13:44
Aerospace Notebook: 'Father' of 747 says it might endure
Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01/12/05
author: James Wallace

It is in Toulouse, on Tuesday, that Airbus will roll out the first A380, the 555-passenger double-decker behemoth that will displace Sutter's 747 as the world's biggest commercial jetliner when it enters service next year.

This promises to be the splashiest jetliner rollout ceremony the industry has seen since Boeing unveiled the first 747-100 jumbo at its sprawling new Everett plant Sept. 30, 1968. As thousands watched that day, Boeing's three other passenger jets -- the 707, 727 and 737 -- were flown by in a salute to the new plane with the distinctive hump behind the cockpit that would become known as the Queen of the Skies.

"The big question is, 'What kind of an airplane is it?' " Sutter said of the A380. "Will it satisfy the customers? That's the 64-million-dollar question, and only time will tell."

Often called the "father of the 747," Sutter led the design team that developed the 747 more than 35 years ago.

Although he retired from Boeing 18 years ago, Sutter, soon to be 84 years old but still razor-sharp, has continued to work for the company as a paid consultant, even keeping an office at Boeing Commercial Airplane headquarters in Renton.

When he is not wintering in Hawaii, and banging out golf balls, Sutter lives in West Seattle, in a home that overlooks the ferry terminal.

Give credit to Airbus, Sutter said last week in a telephone interview.

"It was a big industrial achievement," he said of the A380 development program. "They got the governments behind this tremendous project and, by God, they did it."

But there's the rub, Sutter added.

France, Germany, Britain and Spain provided Airbus with loans for up to 33 percent of the development costs of the A380, which Airbus recently acknowledged had grown by about 15 percent over its original $10.7 billion budget.

These government subsidies, available by treaty to Airbus for new jetliner development programs, are at the center of a World Trade Organization complaint that the U.S. government filed late last year. The United States, and Boeing, are demanding an end to the Airbus launch aid.

When Boeing started development of the 747 in the 1960s, "it was the other way around," Sutter said.

"Boeing had to build its own railways, its own highways and use its own money, of which it did not have much," he said. "The way Europe does business and the way the U.S. does business are completely different."

Airbus has so far received 139 firm orders for its superjumbo, not including 10 A380 cargo models that Atlanta-based United Parcel Service announced Monday that it will order.

That will give Airbus 27 orders for the A380 freighter from four customers -- FedEx, Emirates, International Lease Finance Corp. and now UPS.

Even so, Sutter believes the fundamental problem for Airbus and the A380 is that it was not designed from the start to be both a freighter and passenger jet.

"We gave equal weight to both of those designs," he said of the 747. "I think the Airbus airplane was designed as a passenger jet, and the freighter was given second fiddle."

The A380 freighter is too heavy, even though it can carry more cargo than the 747, Sutter said.

"It can carry a lot of load and not make a lot of money."

Also, he added, the double-deck design is not ideal for a freighter.

The white-haired Sutter knows a thing or two about double-deck aircraft. He almost had to build one for Juan Trippe, the Pan American World Airways boss whose 25-plane order started development of the 747 program in 1966.

"Juan Trippe was double-decker-happy," Sutter recalled.

Until the day Sutter invited Trippe and other Pan American executives to check out a double-decker mock-up Boeing had constructed.

Boeing boss Bill Allen took Trippe and his party up to the top of the mock-up. Sutter stayed below -- way below. Sutter wanted Trippe to try an emergency slide that had been set up from the upper deck. Trippe refused and quickly came back down the shaky stairs.

Trippe was then taken to single-deck mock-up with the wide cabin that would become the hallmark of the 747 interior.

"He walked into that wide single-deck mock-up, and he didn't say a word," Sutter recalled. "But you knew that was the way he wanted to go."

There was one last visit that day, to a mock-up of the cockpit, which would be situated above the main cabin. For aerodynamic reasons, Boeing had created a large empty space just behind the cockpit. It would become the 747's signature hump.

Sutter recalled that Trippe turned to John Borger, a Pan Am engineer, and asked what the space was for.

Borger replied that it could be used for crew rest, Sutter recalled.

"This will be for passengers," Trippe replied.

Sutter was against a full double-deck 747 design for two main reasons. He was worried about slide interference with the wings from the upper deck in case of an emergency evacuation. And the two-deck design would leave little room for the 747 to carry a lot of cargo in its belly.

The son of a Slovenian immigrant who became a meat cutter, Sutter developed an interest in airplanes early. He always stopped to watch the planes flying out of Boeing Field when he delivered newspapers as a boy on his Georgetown paper route. He would later graduate at the top of his aeronautical engineering class at the University of Washington.

He joined Boeing in 1945, just out of the Navy, after World War II.

At Boeing, Sutter's brilliance as an engineer would lead him to prominent roles in the development of nearly every Boeing jetliner.

The salty Sutter, who had a well-deserved reputation for explosive, profanity-laced outbursts that became known in the company as "Sutter's Runaways," has for years been urging Boeing executives to give the 747 more range and seats.

In the late 1990s, Boeing considered development of a stretched 747X and was shopping the plane to potential customers, who at that time were also being pressed by Airbus to buy the A380.

Sutter's reputation in the world of big airplanes was such that Boeing executives took him along on their most important sales campaign for the 747X -- to Singapore Airlines.

Top airline officials greeted Sutter as if he were an engineering god.

Singapore Airlines, however, ordered the A380.

Boeing soon abandoned the 747X project.

Today, Boeing is considering what it calls the 747 Advanced, which would seat around 450 passengers, up from 416 carried by the 747-400. It would be ready in 2009 and would use the fuel-efficient engines under development for the 7E7.

Sutter believes there is a place in the market for both the 747 Advanced and the A380 -- as both freighters and passenger planes.

"How they fit into the market is the question mark," he said.

"If Boeing does its part," Sutter said, "the 747 can hold its own and even be the winner."

The famous Boeing engineer recalled a speech he gave about a year ago to the Royal Aeronautical Society. Sutter is one of the few Americans granted an honorary fellowship in the prestigious 138-year-old British organization.

In his speech, Sutter reflected on the fact that all the other big jets developed for the same market spot as the 747 had disappeared from production. Only the 747 remained.

"Twenty years from now," Sutter said last week," it could be that the 747 is the airplane that's left and the A380 has also disappeared."

Spoken like a very proud father.

12th Jan 2005, 15:05
I dont think so, that he is correct with his pressumption. Airbus still has the ability to increase the capacity of the a380 while Boing has allready reached its limits with the 747.

It would be interesting to compare the amount of new orders for the 747 with the amount of new orders for the a380.

12th Jan 2005, 15:23
It would be more interesting - and more relevant - to compare orders for the A380 with 747 Advanced (assuming it were launched). Comparing orders for the 744 (first flight 1988) with the A380 (first flight 2005) doesn't tell us much other than that the 744 - with 600 deliveries behind it - is nearing the end of the road.


12th Jan 2005, 15:28
Whichever way you look at it, the A380's one Big Ugly FF....


One aesthetics give me a 747 anyday.....

12th Jan 2005, 15:44
There are enough deliveries of the 747-400 left to keep the line open for another 2 years, maybe 3. But, the orders keep coming in so who knows. 747-400 sales are 35% above projected from same time last year.

Boeing actually just delivered 2 passenger versions and has orders for more. the last few years it had been nothing but freighters. :E

And to those that doubted me on the original design of the 747 supposed to be double decker :p . One look down the slide from the upper deck and that was the end of that........:cool: :ouch:

12th Jan 2005, 15:48
fear_not: I dont think so, that he is correct with his pressumption. Airbus still has the ability to increase the capacity of the a380 while Boing has allready reached its limits with the 747. The following article (http://www.flightdailynews.com/farnborough2004/07_19/airtransport/747.shtm) says that the proposed 747 Advanced will grow 5 meters longer than the 747-400.

Boeing looked into a very large airplane (VLA) in the days leading up to the A-380. In fact, there were very short lived talks with Airbus about partnering in building a VLA. It didn't think the size of the market would sustain both players. And of course it had a lot less motivation to build an airplane that would kill the 747.

I think Airbus is quite bold going forth with the A380. It certainly can be a runaway hit like the 747 is/was, but it can also push the company to the edge of extinction, just like the 747 did to Boeing in the early 70s. But nothing ventured, nothing gained!

reverserunlocked: On aesthetics give me a 747 anyday..... I guess I agree for now, but I imagine it will grow on us. The head-on view is not really its best, it accenuates the puffy forehead and jowls, and makes the nose look like a snout. I\'m doing my best to avoid name calling, though :)

On the article itself:

Sutter\'s technical points seem to be:
The upper dek is too high to evacute safely
The wing will interfere with the upper deck slides
Having two decks makes the cargo hold too small
The A380 is too heavy
But it seems the counter-point is that UPS, FedEx and Emirates have ordered them as freighters. I think perhaps Sutter is being a \'proud father\'...


Editted to cleanly join multiple posts

Flight Safety
12th Jan 2005, 16:10
I wonder if Boeing will invest in making the 747 Advanced a FBW aircraft, or will they keep commonality with -400? If the seat-mile costs can be brought in line with the A380's, then the aircraft could have a real future. A 5-meter stretch would also be a nice addition of cargo space as well. The aircraft would certainly be in a market niche all by itself at 450 seats.

I'd also be curious to see numbers on the payload and range of the proposed freighter. The new 777-200LR freighter comes close to the payload of the existing -400 (at least in weight), and offers excellent range at reduced costs. A 747 Advanced freighter could occupy a completely different niche, again all by itself.

It will be interesting to watch the progress of this particular 747 development.

To ElectroVlasic, the A380 works as a package freighter (UPS, FedEx, etc), but Sutter is right, the A380 simply will not have the 747's large-long item freight flexibility. Due to its basic configuration, the 747 will always win on freight flexibility compared to the A380.

Final 3 Greens
12th Jan 2005, 18:48
In BCG matrix terms, the 747 is a cash cow and the 380 a question mark.

Time will tell and hindsight is a wonderful gift.

Bomber Harris
12th Jan 2005, 23:17
I dont think so, that he is correct with his pressumption. Airbus still has the ability to increase the capacity of the a380 while Boing has allready reached its limits with the 747. fear-not.......you are a very brave man to say that the bloke who designed the 747 is incorrect!! I'm afraid I'll have to believe Sutter until you can convince me with something more conclusive than sweeping statements about the 747!!

13th Jan 2005, 01:26
B747 has years of life left in it, even the older "Classic" freighters. If Boeing builds "Advanced" version it will win A380 as a freighter any time. I would not be suprised in Boeing would eventually build a newer or just re-branded versions of it's original -500 and -600 designs.


13th Jan 2005, 08:52
fear-not.......you are a very brave man to say that the bloke who designed the 747 is incorrect!! I'm afraid I'll have to believe Sutter until you can convince me with something more conclusive than sweeping statements about the 747!!

@Bomber Harris
Well he was at the top of plane building how many years ago.. In 35 years a lot can change in any business. Yes it is my personal view that he is a bid overconfident with the future of the 747.

After all why didn't Boeing build its 747m Advance? Its because no airline was interested in buying a revamped version of a 35 year old plane. And with all the extras the 747 Advanced still has the same frame as the original 747. The only way to change that would be to build a totaly new plane.

B747 has years of life left in it, even the older "Classic" freighters. If Boeing builds "Advanced" version it will win A380 as a freighter any time. I would not be suprised in Boeing would eventually build a newer or just re-branded versions of it's original -500 and -600 designs.

I think for the transport of standard LD3s and pallets the a380F will likly be better that the freight version of 747.
For everything else the 747 freight will probably outshine the a380F.

13th Jan 2005, 10:58
I'm always surprised why people suggest that new versions of the 744 wouldn't be successful because "it's a revamped version of a 35 year old design". The test is whether it has the peformance and economics to be competitive. If a "35 year old" design, incorporating new materials and technologies is as - or more - competitive than a brand-new design, why spend at least twice as much on a new design? If materials and technologies allow a 744Adv to reduce airframe weight per pax, fuel burn, noise and maintenance man-hours plus increase check intervals and payload/range I would have thought it will continue to do very well filling the 170+ seat gap between the 777-300ER/A346 and the A380. :ok:

13th Jan 2005, 11:54
I thought boeing said that the Large Aircraft market was just about flat, could it be a touch of sour grapes. Boeing have sat on their hands and let Airbus develop a full compliment of tools for the job. At the end of the day if the bus burns less fuel and can lift as much freight in either version then the accountants will dictate, the days of Trippe are over my friends, Accoountants and shareholders run airlines not people with aviation in their blood.

As for an upper deck being too high - have you stood at the top of a B744 upper deck slide and looked down, bloody scary!! The A380 cant be that much significantly higher.

As for government subsidies to fund projects, if it means job creation then why not. The US seem to have their cake and eat it. I dont particularly like that they have 2/5 of the worlds automobiles and wont sign the treaty on reduction of green house gases because it would inhibit their economy. Sorry but if my tax is used to create jobs and wealth for the area that I live in then its bloody well spent!

Put it this way, the B757 is a fantastic looking aircraft, basic and robust able to do a great variety of missions. But it burns about a ton more fuel than an A321 per hour and the cabin is tiny. Its a good ship just out of date and will disappear quckly as long as fuel prices stay high, hence the older B744 with their aging aircraft issues (as aircraft get older they require more maintenance and burn more fuel = more cost) what do you think will happen. Why does SIN regularly update its fleet, young aircraft more fuel efficient and require less maintenance. So for freight yes the B744 will win as airlines turn them out of their fleets, but the real winner for Boeing will be their B777 as it is more fuel efficient and has lower operating costs. I think the B747 has had its day. Any modifications of the basic model is still a compromise on the original design that is over 30 years old.

The A380 will have its problems, mostly associated with airports and handling but when has that ever been any different and was worse with the arrival of the B747 as aircraft of its size have not seen the light of day.

Anyhow time will tell what chice was right but I think that Boeing will be pushed out of the large aircraft market (pax).
Lets hope we see both types continue to fly for a long time, it is still a great scene to see 260+ tonnes get airborne!

13th Jan 2005, 13:11
Sutter led a great team in developing the 747, and for that he deserves a place in aviation's history.
and in this case I wish I didn't have to say "But"
... he was later a lukewarm supporter at best of the 737-300, the single program that has saved Boeing's rear end; and he opposed and delayed the 737-400, tipping LH and others into the A320; and he favoured and boosted the ridiculous Cuisinart-power 7J7.
More recently, he's been an important figure in Boeing's campaign to depict the A380 as an overweight, inefficient pig that won't offer any economic advantages over the 747.
I don't want to start that argument again - but if you work for Boeing you'd better fall to your knees and pray to any conveniently accessible deity that Sutter and the rest of Boeing has got it right.

13th Jan 2005, 13:30
The upper deck is too high to evacute safely
Not that old chesnut! Or does the 747 not have an upper deck accommodating passengers? Yes, I know the 380's is bigger, but fail to see what difference a couple of feet in height (if that) will make.
"it's a revamped version of a 35 year old design".
You can apply this argument equally to the 380. It is a revamped design, they just made it bigger!
Boeing's campaign to depict the A380 as an overweight, inefficient pig
Whilst heavier per passenger compared to other aircraft, I'd hardly say "overweight." And when it comes to weight, Boeing have got a lot to do with the 7e7.

When it comes to A380 & 7e7, they can both be considered new designs, but ultimately both are flawed albeit not enough to lead to failure.

13th Jan 2005, 17:34
For an aircraft this expensive to make money you have to fill the seats.
Just a question is their any route that would fill the seats and make it profitable the majority of the time?
Or would this aircraft just be used on specific routes during peak seasons?

13th Jan 2005, 18:30
since they will most likely all become package freighters in near future they wont be all that hard to fill with letters and various other small packages. :E

13th Jan 2005, 19:37
Completely new designs are not always better ones. Incremental enhancement of a solid basic design avoids much of the immense cost of restarting from zero, and also avoids most of the chance of serious errors in judgement.

One can just as easily observe that all the flight crew members are " a revamped version of a 500,000 year-old design."

Hand Solo
14th Jan 2005, 00:28
Since when did the 747-400 become a wonderful freighter? If outsize cargo is your business then it's great. If containerized freight is your business then you buy up every available MD11/DC10/MD10 like FedEx. Most of the big-buying freight shippers don't haul outsize loads so its down to pure cost per tonne per km figures and the A380 currently wins. Sure 744Fs have a great future shipping weird shaped stuff that doesn't justify the cost of an Antonov, but converted 744s that don't have the tip nose? Well they're living on the fact that they're gonna be real cheap on the second hand market.

14th Jan 2005, 00:38
Pallets, Igloos, Containers you name it. It is suprising how big a load can be and still fit in through the SCD on a 747.


14th Jan 2005, 03:27
Having flown the B747 100/200/400 combi, pax, freighter and extended range freighter, you can't beat it...in my opinion. Whichever deivative it just looks right, and I still turn my head around after deplaning to look at it. The ERF is a wonderful aircraft, long legs and will carry almost any reasonable commercial cargo. The A380 is like the jumbo's ugly fatter sister, again in my opinion. How true is the urban legend that the A380 will be an autoland aircraft primarily? If that is the case then I can't see true pilots wishing to fly it. The last 50 feet is what makes the job the most fulfilling, using the seat of your pants, and not your eyes to read the FMA's, just my opinion.

14th Jan 2005, 09:18
Focal, won't all those packages balk at having to slide down from the top deck of such an enormously high upper deck? :}

Earl, it'd cost a darn sight more to only fly it during peak season and leave it sitting on the ground for 8 months a year.

15th Jan 2005, 11:33
The A380 will do just fine. The 747 will go down is history as the aircraft that brought long haul travel to the masses, but in 10 years the 747-400 will look ancient compared with A380, much like a 747-1/200 does with a -400. Times change!

Onan the Clumsy
15th Jan 2005, 13:47
If you want size and cargo ability (and elegance), then how about:


Sorry I don't have photoshop or I could have painted her white replaced the swastikas with a red and blue stripe.

Onan the Clumsy
15th Jan 2005, 16:27
But in fairness both demises were the result of enemy action.

Bomber Harris
16th Jan 2005, 02:19
I guess if a couple of airline pilots were in a bar and they overheard two budding ppl's with 15 hours flying between them discuss how to flare a 747 and get a greaser....they would have chuckle at the misconceptions...

I wonder what aircraft designers and marketeers who devote their life to this subject make of us guys and gals, who have been trained to move the switches and grapple with the controls, give comment on how they are messing up a multi billion dollar industry.......

however....it would be a boring industry without comment!!!

16th Jan 2005, 02:34
both demises were the result of enemy action. We're talking about the Hindenberg and the Titanic here, are we not?

Please explain how these events were due to "enemy action."

Thanks in advance. :confused:

16th Jan 2005, 08:26
You can quite easily bolt a 5m fuse plug on to a 747-400 but meeting QC4 will mean an end to the tripple slotted flaps which will mean a new wing design. A billion or 2.

Then you have to work on that seat mile thing with oil at $48 dollars per barrell.

And while in on it a lot of bull is written about the huge number (555) of passengers that will be cramed in like cattle, well JAL have been putting 569 passengers in a 747-400 since 1991 boeing and American neigh sayers seem to have forgotten that.

Anyway the 747adv could well be dead by tuesday if CX as come to the A380 launch party as is being strongly rumoured. JAL, BA and SAA will then be forced to join up to compete on level terms and all prestige launch customers for the 747Adv will be gone. BA would be murdered if all its profitable routes were serviced by competitors A380's.

I am convinced that some of the leasors have already placed orders for BA.

16th Jan 2005, 15:05
One area 744Fs have had to partially cede to the Antonov is large engine transport because of the width of the fans, requiring less disassembly to make them fit. Are 380s going to be able to carry these engines or is the max width similar?

Hand Solo
16th Jan 2005, 15:23
BA would be murdered if all its profitable routes were serviced by competitors A380's.

Pure speculation. That assumes the passengers positively prefer the A380 to the 744, something we know nothing about at this stage.

I am convinced that some of the leasors have already placed orders for BA.

Not according to the two board members I've spoken to in the last six weeks.

16th Jan 2005, 16:56
BA would be murdered if all its profitable routes were serviced by competitors A380's.

Pure speculation. That assumes the passengers positively prefer the A380 to the 744, something we know nothing about at this stage.

>>>> Passengers prefer cheap flights. BA will be facing A380's to SIN SYD DXB JFK BKK and maybe HKG and NRT

I am convinced that some of the leasors have already placed orders for BA.

Not according to the two board members I've spoken to in the last six weeks.

>>>> Dont know who you are but I doubt if any directors would be giving that kind of information out to drinking buddies.

Hand Solo
16th Jan 2005, 18:34
No but they're quite willing to discuss the aircraft with the flight crew they meet, indeed I've found them very pro-active in visiting the flight deck whenever they're on BA metal. No orders for A380 until at least 2009, 747advanced still firmly in the frame, the board want to see what the reality of the A380 is in service rather than relying on projections. Besides there's certainly no point having it in service before T5 is up and running as current BA infrastructure at LHR just can't cope with it.

As for passenger preferring cheap flights, well there's a lot more goes into the equation than just fuel burn and not all of BAs customers are price driven. The airline seems to have coped reasonably well with the 744 on many routes versus competition from the A340 and 777, both of which are more efficient aircraft. If you start from scratch with a 380 and a 744 the 380 will win, but compare starting from scratch with a 380 with a sizable established 744 fleet and the economics are less clear cut. You also seem to have missed the point that we can't fill a 380 to DXB and the SIN, BKK, and HKG routes leave LHR late at night and arrive LHR early in the morning so the aircraft will have to sit around at LHR unused all day. That does not help lower ticket prices!

16th Jan 2005, 19:21
Well if BA are not planning to order before 2009 they will not be in service until 2011/12 which seems a long way off. I donít see it like that, if the A380 is a success it will bring down ticket prices OR maybe VS/SQ will give a few extra inches of legroom and fly a premium economy main deck, for those who donít buy on price. BA's hand will most likely be forced well before 2009, delivery slots being limited (unless they already have an arrangement)

The point is that a prudent carrier should keep flexible and make contingencies.

747Adv still in the frame? Explain please. How can it be in the frame when its not even on the drawing board, or are you talking about the 747-500, 747-600, 747-700 or the 747QLXR (which could be delivered to airlines in 2003 according to an article I found web crawling), are RR going to build an engine for it, they don't offer one for the 747-400ERF. Get real, we have seen the last 747 derivative.

Hand Solo
16th Jan 2005, 19:45
The point is that a prudent carrier should keep flexible and make contingencies.

747Adv still in the frame? Explain please

Self explanatory really. Nothings ruled in, nothings ruled out, and that's straight from the very highly placed horses mouth. Seems pretty flexible to me. If Boeing offer a new 747 derivative BA will look at it and do the maths. Perhaps BAs hand will be forced, but if they're going to buy the 380 they have to buy LOTS. Just a dozen or so won't do, they'll need a big fleet and someone to take the old 744s off their hands too. It doesn't look theres a great deal of forcing going on at the moment, especially as VS have delayed the delivery of their 380s by 18+ months.

Onan the Clumsy
17th Jan 2005, 02:19
Please explain how these events were due to "enemy action" Well the Hindenburg was destroyed by a bomb placed there by a group who wanted to remove some of the glory the Nazis were experiencing around the world. Unfortunately it was late arriving and so blew up before all the passangers were de-derigibled. (at least that's what this book I read said).

As for the other one, in the words of Mrs Mittleshmit "That's where my claim falls to the ground" Titanic you say. I thought it was the Lusitania. :ugh: Enemy iceberg?

17th Jan 2005, 03:56
Change is good,
That is what makes this industry so vibrant and exciting.

Some changes did turn out below expectations, but
still the lessons learnt far out weigh the anti-change sentiments.

Give the 380 a chance ,
seat back , relax and enjoy the show.

Look on the bright side, if Airbus falters , we still have good old
744 to see through the day.

So how much is the bet: ladbrooks any one?

salute the 79.8m wing-span.


17th Jan 2005, 14:24

It's not that RR does not offer an engine for the 747-400ERF. :E

RR would love to put the RB211-524G/H on it. The 747-400ERF did not get deriv engines from GE and Pratt did it?

Maybe you should ask the folks under the flight path at Heathrow why there is no offering for the RR engine on the 744ERF. :E