Korean Air To Retire Five Boeing 747-8i Jets In 2025

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Korean Air is speeding up the retirement of its passenger Boeing 747-8i quad jets, after it was discovered that they sold five of them to U.S. aerospace and defense company Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Korean Air currently operates 10 Boeing 747-8i, and seven 747-8F cargo variants. Of those 10 passenger jets, one registered HL7643 is being used as a VIP lease for the Government of South Korea. With nine in commercial service, it was expected that they would be phased out some time in 2031.

However according to a recent filing on the South Korean stock exchange, five of those quad jets will see a much earlier retirement date after it was disclosed that they were sold to Sierra Nevada for $671 million and will leave Korean’s fleet in September 2025.

According to Reuters, the exact aircraft type was not publicly disclosed, but insiders have revealed to the news publisher that the aircraft in question were its 747-8is. Even though the Boeing quad jet fleet has an average age of just nine years old, the company is quickly moving forward with more modern twin-engine variants. Korean also plans to phase out its Airbus A380 fleet by 2026, and by extension Asiana Airlines’ A380s once the merger is completed.

In a separate article officially acknowledged by Sierra Nevada, the company was awarded a $13.08 billion contract to outfit a new fleet, dubbed the Survivable Air Operations Center (SAOC), to replace the aging E-4 “Doomsday” aircraft officially recognized as the National Airborne Operations Center.

Credit: Balon Greyjoy | CC0 1.0 Universal

Four E-4s were built on the older Boeing 747-200 platform, each capable of accommodating 111 people. These aircraft serve as airborne command centers during emergency and wartime situations.

the Air Force has plans of retiring these older Doomsday planes by 2030 and will replace them with the modern SAOC equivalent. While Sierra Nevada has not acknowledged the Korean sale, it’s well known that they have been shopping around on the 747 market, preferring them over Boeing 777s for better safety margins.

The four current E-4 variants average 50 years old.

Featured image: Alec Wilson/Flickr | CC BY 2.0 Generic

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