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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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747-8
By TLG on 2/11/2010 12:00:58 PM , Rating: 2
Second try:

If flight tests go well and there are no further schedule snafus, Boeing could well corner the large-freight market with the 747-8 and 777F that just entered service. The Antonov An-124 will still get calls for specialized oversized missions, but it is not in service with regular airlines or traditional freight carriers.

The A380F development is on long-term hold following cancellation of orders by FedEx and UPS, leaving Airbus with 0 orders for the model. Development has therefore not even begun.

The irony of the delay in 747-8 development is that GE was able to further refine the -2B engine it uses, with cost savings for total airframe now at roughly 17%, they are thinking, vs. earlier estimates not quite as high. As the economy starts to improve, and if these figures are verified in flight test, I'm hoping to see more orders for both the 747-8F and the -8I versions.




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