More than a year after the successful first flight of the Boeing 747-8 Freighter version, the passenger version of the updated JumboJet has taken to the skies for the first time as well.
On March 20, 2011, the latest version of the legendary Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, the 747-8I (the “I” stand for “Intercontinental”) has taken off from Paine Field at 9:59 local time, to land at Boeing Field at 14:24 – after four and a half hours in the air. The plane was piloted by Boeing 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein and captain Paul Stemer. They told the media that the 747-8I systems as well as the four General Electric GEnx-2B engines performed as expected, as the plane reached 6096 meters altitude and 463 km/h (250 knots) speed.
Test plane RC001 in “Sunrise Orange” livery will be one of the test aircraft that are scheduled to complete a 600 hour flight test program in the coming months. This first flight took the plane out North first, then West above the Western Washington state area, and returned it back after a large circle around the Seattle area.
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, as well as the larger overhead compartments and the Sky Interior of the Dreamliner, but keeps some of the original features of the plane, including the partial double-deck design – extended even a little bit more than the previous longest double-deck version, the 747-400.
The 76.3 meter long 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 version (4.1 ms before the wing on both decks and 1.5 meters after the wing only on the lower deck). This additional length provides a few more seats onboard for the passenger version that can fly up to 14.800 kms. The new 747-8 will have a maximum take off weight of 442.250 kgs, but will still have a 12% less maintenance costs. It consumes about 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. This also means 16% lower (CO2) emissions and a 30% decrease in noise levels from that of the 747-400.
The first 747-8I will be delivered to launch customer Lufthansa, with delivery scheduled for the end of 2011. Lufthansa has ordered 20 of the type so far with 386 seats (the maximum density could be 467). Boeing has sold a combined 33 747-8Is (besides the 20 to German Lufthansa: 5 to Korean Air and 8 for unidentified VIP customers). Most recently Air China has indicated that it would purchase 5 pieces of the longest ever passenger jet, but that order is yet to be confirmed and approved by the Chinese Government. Boeing also has sold 76 of the cargo version of the 747-8, the 747-8F (freighter).
You can find more photos about the first flight and the test aircraft on airliners.net.