Less than 8 weeks after the successful first flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing’s other new airplane has taken to the skies for the first time as well: the Freighter version of the 747-8!
One day prior to the 41st anniversary of the first ever flight of the legendary Boeing 747-100 Jumbo Jet, the latest version completed its first test flight, spending more than 3 and a half hours in the air on February 8, 2010. According to Boeing 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein the 747-8 freighter “performed as expected and handled just like a 747-400.“Taking off at 12:40 pm from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, the plane took a route above Western Washington state, climbed to 17,000 feet and reached a top speed of 230 knots. It returned to the same airport and landed safely at 4:18 pm. The flight was delayed by nearly 3 hours due to bad weather.
Somewhat similar to the 787 Dreamliner situation, the 747-8 program has also faced some delays, but not as bad as the Dreamliner. The 747-8 family is a major redesign of the famous Jumbo Jet designed to compete with the Airbus A380, using the engine and cockpit technology of the Dreamliner, but keeps some of the original features of the plane, including the partial double-deck design – which is specifically ideal for Freight as it allows front access to the full cargo hold by opening up the nose below the cockpit.
The 747-8 will be powered by new generation GEnx engines, but this is not the only change, as the aircraft will be 5.6 ms longer than the current Boeing 747-400 freighter version. This additional length provides 16% more revenue cargo volume, meaning 7 additional hold pallets: 4 on the main-deck and three in the lower-hold. Besides taking more cargo, the new 747-8F will consume 17% less fuel, as on top of the new engines types, some parts of the fuselage will be replaced by lighter materials than in the current version. The wings are being fully redesigned as well as seen on this image:
Among the special guests of the first flight at Paine Field was Joe Sutter, the chief engineer of the original 747. “It’s amazing to me that this program has lasted 41 years,” he said on a Boeing webcast following the succesful landing. The fact that the plane is still being developed and adjusted for future upgrades “says the basic design was right then and it’s still right now.“
The first 747-8F will be delivered for launch customer Cargolux, with delivery scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2010. Cargolux has ordered 13 of the type so far and is one of nine customers that have ordered a combined 76 -8Fs. Boeing also has sold 32 of the passenger version of the 747-8, the 747-8I (intercontinental), 20 to German Lufthansa, 5 to Korean Air and 7 for unidentified VIP customers. The manufacturer said the first flight of the -8 Intercontinental, will occur later this year. The Freighter version will be undergoing approximately 1,600 hours of test flights – which will be accomplished by three test airplanes.
You can find more photos about the first flight and the test aircraft on airliners.net.