Many of us know that a key supply chain partner of Boeing, Triumph/Vought, shut down production of key 747 structural parts a while ago.
Now FG tells us:
Sources tell FlightGlobal that with the decision looming over whether to shore up the 747’s future, there is increasing internal tension about whether or not to continue production. FlightGlobal has learnt that approaches from two customers about potential new orders did not elicit any response from Seattle.
In addition, within the last two years, five 747-8F customers are understood to have penned a joint letter seeking Boeing to clarify its position on the programme’s future.
So, there seems to be some potential for future orders, although it is pretty vague.
The volume of orders needed for restarting production of these elements is said to be 100 frames, quite concrete.
The article ends with a response from a Boeing representative:
“We are continuing to build 747-8s to meet the backlog of orders for the airplane and will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production line healthy,” it says. “With production slots filled for several years, we are working closely with our suppliers and have plans in place to support 747-8 production to meet our customer commitments.”
I think that speaks for itself. They are going to meet the existing commitments, and they're just not going to respond to inquiries about additional orders.
In short, I think the ship has sailed. I don't see Boeing funding the reboot of the production of the structural elements. It might have been feasible to just buy out the plants as-is and get another vendor to take over (or for Boeing itself to take over) at one point in time, but that time has passed.
These days, Boeing would rather redirect the customers towards the 777F and its eventual replacement by 778F. I think they'd also be happy to repurpose the factory space that the current 747 line takes up.