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First deliveries this year

For 37 years, Boeing's 747 "Jumbo Jet" was the largest commercial passenger aircraft in the world. The iconic aircraft was the bread and butter for the company, but sales have dropped as airlines have looked to the much more advanced and fuel efficient Airbus A380.

The Airbus A380 has not been without its problems though, some of which forced a delay in the development of the much awaited A380 freighter variant. Half of the world's air freight is carried on freighter versions of the 747, so Boeing saw a huge market opportunity.

The design of the previous generation, the 747-400, goes back to 1985. The new 747-800 series is much more advanced, and uses four of General Electric's GEnx-2B engines using technology developed for the 787 Dreamliner. The new aircraft will be larger and quieter, as well as more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Lower operating costs are the main reason why many current 747 operators are looking to purchase new planes. There are currently 76 orders for the 747-8F freighter model and 32 orders for the 747-8I Intercontinental passenger model.

Boeing completed the first test flight of a 747-8F yesterday from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. There are more than 1,600 flight hours in the test program scheduled.

"It was a real privilege to be at the controls of this great airplane on its first flight, representing the thousands of folks who made today possible," said 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein. "The airplane performed as expected and handled just like a 747-400."

A 747-8I could fly in the future as Air Force One, especially since Airbus has decided not to put in a bid. The current fleet uses two highly modified 747-200B aircraft delivered in 1990. They are scheduled to be replaced by 2017.

First deliveries of the 747-800 series are expected to begin by the end of this year.

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RE: Huge Move
By Amiga500 on 2/9/2010 2:24:25 PM , Rating: 3
Erm... sorry to burst the bubble but virtually none of the parts will be interchangeable. Perhaps... and I stress perhaps, some small parts of the engine, the 787 has a bleedless GENx variant, the 747-8 does not... and the fans are of different diameter.

Off at a wee tangent:

The reason why the 747 is so good as a freighter is more to do with its opening nose. See here:

Infact, the B747 was evolved from an earlier design for a military lifter in the competition where the USAF choose the C-5 Galaxy instead.

RE: Huge Move
By weskurtz0081 on 2/9/2010 4:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
Plus, it has a wide side door, and the plane just works better than most commercial cargo jets for outsized or tall cargo.

Remember why the C-5 won?

RE: Huge Move
By blowfish on 2/9/2010 4:51:08 PM , Rating: 5
but compared with the Antonov 124, it's crap. And the Antonov has much better payload/range than the Galaxy, which was horribly over weight. I'm sure for FEDEX type stuff the new 747 will be fine, but for versatile heavy lifting, you have to look to more specialised planes like the Antonov. A couple of years ago, I loaded 105 tonnes of steel trussing into an Antonov, mostly 16ft long pieces, but also many at 24ft long. Couldn't have used a 747 for that - in fact we used a 747 for some smaller bits.

RE: Huge Move
By robertgu2k on 2/9/2010 6:37:40 PM , Rating: 3
I can't comment on the old 747-400 but the new 747-8F can carry more weight and can carry that weight about twice as far than the Antonov 124. So it looks like the 747-8F has come advantages over the Antonov.

RE: Huge Move
By porkpie on 2/9/2010 11:20:29 PM , Rating: 1
The only problem with the Antonov is its rather lousy safety record. It's logged only about 1/6 the total airtime-hours as the Galaxy, yet has nearly as many major accidents.

Whether thats a design issue, an operator training/maintenance issue, or both, I won't try to argue.

RE: Huge Move
By Samus on 2/11/2010 12:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
Using interchangable parts isn't always a good idea. Think Toyota and accelerator pedals.

I know we're talking about Boeing here, and Aviation reliability is an entirely different field, HOWEVER, these GE engines are very new technology and other than the Dreamliner, they have no amassed flight hours outside of this problem.

Perhaps Boeing is spanning the engine through a number a problems to increase testing? Or they are lining themselves up for a quality control nightmare.

RE: Huge Move
By weskurtz0081 on 2/11/2010 10:08:35 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it has marginally better range, but it's not like that is really an issue with AR. Plus, the C5-M actually carries more weight than the 124.

You can do pretty much anything you can with a 124 on a C5. So, to say the C5 is crap compared to a 124, well, that's just stupid.

RE: Huge Move
By stromgald30 on 2/9/2010 5:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
That's hardly the reason. They can design a hinged nose or larger side door on the A380 without much trouble.

The main reason that the 747 is a good freighter is because of it's volume to MTOW ratio. The Airbus can't be filled completely with stuff at the typical payload density expected for freighters, so it's more volume limited than load limited. The 747 is the other way around. It has more carrying power than volume with respect to the typical lbm/cu. ft. of air cargo.

RE: Huge Move
By Amiga500 on 2/10/2010 5:23:38 AM , Rating: 2
That's hardly the reason. They can design a hinged nose or larger side door on the A380 without much trouble.

That is the reason... along with fuel economics.

See the second deck on the 747... notice the way that leaves clear unobstructed access to a constant cross section cargo hull? That is a throwback to the 747 fuselage's origins as a cargo lifter.

Re-doing some of the wiring looms on the A380 was the main reason for all the delays. How long do you think it would take them to a rewire for a hinged nose? How much use is a hinged nose if you have limited access to the area behind the flight deck?

Erm, in your 2nd paragraph are you trying to suggest the 747 has a bigger internal volume than the A380? Or can lift a heavier payload? (A380 has 7% more payload lift capacity and 10% more volume).

At max cargo weight and lifting off at MTOW, the A380 also has a much greater range than the 747-8F.

Indeed, in every measurable yardstick of absolute lifting abilities, the A380 is ahead of the 747F... bar the hinging door.

RE: Huge Move
By stromgald30 on 2/11/2010 4:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
You're talking absolutes. Absolutes doesn't mean much for business. They talk in terms of efficiency.

If you fill a 747-400F full (volume-wise) with the standard weight per volume of air cargo, the plane would be able to take off. The A380, if filled to the brim with the same cargo density as the 747-8, it wouldn't be able to take off.

Your numbers are also a bit off. The capacity of the A380 is 152,000 kg with a volume of 1,135 cubic meters. The 747-8 is 140,000kg with a volume of 854 cubic meters.

So the A380 has 32% more volume than the 747, but only 8.5% more payload weight capacity. The cargo density goes from 133 kg/m^3 to 164 kg/m^3 (19% decrease vs. the 747-8).

For the A380 you would have to fly lighter cargo or leave space left over inside the aircraft. That extra space just means you're lugging around more aircraft for the same amount of cargo as you would in a 747-8.

I'm not saying the cargo doors / hinged nose would be an "easy" engineering change, but it is certainly do-able. The reason Airbus didn't have enough customers for the A380-800F wasn't because of the hinged door and such. Customers would've paid the up-front design/development costs if the aircraft fit their uses better. However, just by doing the simple math above shows that it just isn't as economical as the 747-8.


RE: Huge Move
By MrFord on 2/11/2010 4:58:52 PM , Rating: 2
That's hardly the reason. They can design a hinged nose or larger side door on the A380 without much trouble.

Hinged nose would require an entire new front section. But a larger side door is mostly out of the question, because of the top floor. The fuselage strength relies on that floor (and the lower level one) to keep the fuselage shape. This is not a perfectly round fuselage, i.e. 777 or 747, but rather a 8-shaped fuselage, i.e. DC-8/707, where the 2 barrels meets at the floor points. Same thing for the 747's upper deck floor.

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