Boeing’s largest passenger jet aircraft the 747-8 Intercontinental or 747-8i successfully completed its first flight earlier today.
Painted in the new Sunrise livery of red-orange, a significant departure from Boeing’s traditional blue livery, the aircraft registered N6067E, and designated RC001, lifted-off from runway 34L at Paine Field at Boeing’s Everett factory at 9:59am local (16:59Z, 22:29IST) in front of several thousand employees, customers, suppliers and local leaders.
Powered by four General Electric GEnx-2B67 engines, and with 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein and Capt. Paul Stemer at the controls, RC001 landed about four and half hours later at 14:25 local (21:25Z, 02:55+1 IST) at nearby Boeing Field in Seattle, the home of Boeing’s flight test operations.
The airplane followed a route over eastern Washington state in the north-west United States, where it underwent tests for basic handling and performance. The airplane reached a cruising altitude of 19,000 feet (5,791 meters), and a speed of up to 250 knots, or about 288 miles per hour (463 kilometers).
This flight commences a 600 hour flight test program which will run in parallel to the on-going flight test programmes of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which had its first flight in December 2009, and the Boeing 747-8F, the freighter model of the 747-8i which first flew just over a year ago in February 2010. Boeing is attempting to simultaneously complete three aircraft models certifications, another first in its 95 year old history, to make deliveries on these long delayed aircraft programmes, before the end of this year.
At 76.3m (250ft), the 747-8i is the longest passenger jet ever built in commercial aviation history, superseding its competitor the Airbus A380 by 3.6m (11ft 10in), and the Airbus A340-600 who held the record till date at 75.30 metres (247 ft 1 in). The aircraft features a new wing design, expanded use of composite materials to reduce weight, and improved fly-by-wire controls. It expands passenger capacity by 12% over its previous model the 747-400ER and has a 442,000kg (975,000lb) maximum take-off weight (MTOW) up from 412,775 kg (910,000 lb) and a range of 14,800km (8,000nm) up from 14,205 km (7,670nm).
The 747-8 Intercontinental has benefited from the 787 Dreamliner programme, applying interior features which include a new curved, up-swept architecture giving passengers a greater feeling of space and comfort, while adding more room for personal belongings
Boeing is targeting the 747-8i to European and Asian customers, who face landing capacity constrained airports with increasing numbers of passengers. At 467 seats in a typical three class layout, the 747-8i is positioned in a narrow niche in between the 555 seat A380 superjumbo and the 365 seat 777-300ER and A340-600, a strategy that has been validated by launch customer Lufthansa which operates both the A380 and A340-600, and Korean Airlines which will soon operate the A380 and operates the 777-300ER. Boeing has received orders for 30 747-8i. 20 from Lufthansa and five each from Korean Air and Air China. The Air China order is subject to approval of the Chinese government.
The next 747-8i aircraft will be designated RC021 and will be painted in the colours of launch customer Lufthansa. RC001 which will be the only aircraft painted in the red-orange Sunrise livery, will be outfitted and delivered as a business jet for the Kuwaiti government, upon completion of flight testing and certification.
Do take the time to visit Boeing’s micro-site for the 747-8 Intercontinental