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Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental  (Source: Boeing)
Aircraft is the longest commercial airliner in the world

Boeing is one of the largest companies in the aviation world. Not only does the company have a vast military portfolio, but it also has an enormous presence in the civilian aviation market with some of the most popular passenger aircraft in the world. Boeing has celebrated the official premiere of the latest civilian aircraft called the 747-8 Intercontinental.

The aircraft is the passenger version of a cargo aircraft that Boeing has been working on for the past few years – the cargo plane and its passenger version are both behind schedule. The first flight for the 747-800 was conducted in February of 2010, almost exactly a year ago.

Boeing unveiled the new 747-8 Intercontinental officially at an event with about 10,000 guests including current and potential customers. Boeing is aiming the plane at the 400-500 seat market and claims that the new aircraft has unrivaled efficiency and performance.

Boeing's CEO Jim Albaugh said, "The new 747-8 Intercontinental features the latest in innovative technologies — applying many of the breakthroughs also found on the 787 Dreamliner. We think our customers will value the low operating costs and passengers will enjoy the comfort of the striking new interior."

So far the 747-8 has 33 orders on the books with 20 of the planes ordered for Lufthansa alone; Korean Air Lines is on the hook for five of the aircraft reports Bloomberg. Each of the aircraft sells for $317.5 million and will carry about 467 passengers in a three-class configuration.

Boeing thinks that the new 747-8 Intercontinental is sized well to put pressure on the larger Airbus A380 that seats about 525 passengers. Boeing's Elizabeth Lund said, "With an A380, you run the risk of not filling every seat whenever you fly. It’s, we think, really the right size most of the time in most markets."

Boeing notes that the 747-8 provides operators with 12% lower costs to operate than its predecessor the 747-400. The 747-8 gets 16% better fuel economy, has 16% less carbon emissions per passenger, and has a 30% smaller noise footprint. The aircraft also uses some interior features from the 787 Dreamliner with curved and upswept interior architecture that gives passengers the feeling of more space and adds more room for personal items.

USA Today notes that the aircraft was lengthened by 18.3-feet, making the 747-8 the longest jetliner in the world. The hump that is familiar on Boeing's 747 has been lengthened a well to cover double deck seating inside and is 13.3-feet longer than before.

The overall wingspan of the massive airliner is 224-feet and it is propelled by GEnx-2B67 engines built by GE. These engines use about 30% fewer parts than other jet engines to reduce maintenance and the chance of failure. The cruise speed for the 747-8 is Mach 0.86 or about 570 mph.

"As the only airplane in the 400 to 500-seat market, the 747-8 Intercontinental will give operators an airplane perfectly suited for long, heavily traveled routes around the world," said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager, Airplane Programs, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The new 747-8 Intercontinental will set a new standard in economic and environmental performance, while providing a world-class passenger experience."

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Gunning for the A380...
By stburke on 2/14/2011 11:05:29 AM , Rating: 2
Both future 747-8i operators (Korean Air and Lufthansa) also have orders for the A380. This plane seems to more or less complement existing fleets more so than anything. A large international airline operating a 747 may deem the A380 on order too big for some routes but still needs similar range and cargo capabilities.

That being said, this airplane is iconic and a great offering but at higher fuel burn, smaller range and capacity compared to the A380, I don't think there's going to be too many orders for this queen of the sky.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By Jeffk464 on 2/14/2011 1:43:46 PM , Rating: 2
If what you are saying is correct about airlines wanting a smaller sized plane for some routes. It almost seems like they should have stayed with the 747-400 and fit it with the new improved GE engines. Its like the closer in size it gets to the A380 the more compelling it becomes just to buy the A380.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By Solandri on 2/14/2011 2:25:00 PM , Rating: 5
The point isn't to make a plane which can burn the least fuel with the greatest range and greatest capacity. The point is to build a plane which best suits the market for a route for the least cost. If the market for a daily flight between two locations is only about 420 people instead of 500, then the 747-8 makes more financial sense than the A380 for that route. Yes the fuel cost per passenger on the 747-8 is higher than the A380 if the planes are fully loaded. But if there are only 420 people consistently on the flight, then the fuel cost per passenger on the A380 is higher. In terms of passengers per flight, the various planes break down like this:

525 - A380
467 - 747
300-400 - A340
300-365 - 777
270-350 - A350 (expected 2014)
250-295 - A330
210-290 - 787 (expected this year)
125-220 - A320 / 737

What the manufacturers are trying to do is offer planes to cover as wide a variety of capacities as possible. You can see the 747 owns the 400-460 market, while the A380 owns the 460-525 market. Unfortunately for Airbus, the 777 has been beating the A340 into a bloody pulp in the market (a shame too - I think it's Airbus' most beautiful plane). Just like the A330 cleaned the clock of the 767, spurring Boeing to drop it and design the 787.

Airbus has only gotten orders for about 240 A380s, while the break-even point for the costs to design the plane is at about 420 orders. It will probably hit 420 eventually, but after so many years that the ROI is so crappy that they could've made more profit just depositing the money in a savings account. So it's questionable if the 450+ passenger market is even big enough to warrant there being a plane there. In contrast, the 747-8 is using an already-paid-for airframe design, while adding technology being paid for by the 787. So Boeing doesn't have to sell a lot of these to recoup their development costs.

If you look at all of the above and the number of sales (the 777 is at nearly 1200 orders and selling more every year, vs. the A340 at 375 with the last 4 years being its worst), Airbus has a huge hole in the 300-450 range. Boeing is simply refreshing the 747 to strengthen the upper range of that hole, to make it harder for Airbus to field a competitor there. It looks like Airbus erred and should've designed a replacement for the A340 to compete with the 777 (at the high end) and 747 (at the low end), rather than the A380. Right now they're trying to position the A350 to compete with both the 777 and 787, which is a rather tall order.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By Jeffk464 on 2/14/2011 5:39:22 PM , Rating: 3
A shame that Boeing is kicking airbus's butt with the 777, NO that is most definitely not a shame.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By Amiga500 on 2/14/2011 5:42:01 PM , Rating: 2
The A340 is a piece of crap.

No one would seriously considering buying one instead of a 777-300/-300ER.

The A350 is slightly larger than the 787, and has presenting Boeing with a bit of a headache with regards the 777. There is talk of rewinging, or re-design... airlines obviously pushing for a redesign, Boeing a bit more cagey.

I would expect the poor orders for the 747-8 are a result of the A350-1000. You say Airbus has a hole at 300-450, well the A350-800 has @300 PAX in a 2-class config, and the A350-1000 has about about 400 PAX capacity in a 2-class config.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By Zoomer on 2/14/2011 10:42:09 PM , Rating: 2
The real reason is that the A34x planes, being 4 engined, are huge gas guzzlers. With jet fuel over $100/b and poised to rise, it's not hard to see why they are unpopular now.

The A340-500 is a nice plane; I've been on it multiple times. (However airline specific interiors obviously count for a lot more) It's the fastest way to traverse certain routes.

RE: Gunning for the A380...
By tng on 2/15/2011 7:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
The real reason is that the A34x planes, being 4 engined.....
It is not just that, since the 777 has only two engines there is less maintenance involved as well. The 340 is cheaper though, so there are allot of things that go into a purchase decision.

I will point to Air France buying the 777 over the 340 when the 340 is assembled in France.

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