Boeing 747-8 Leaves The Nest For The First Time

Mar 22, 2011, 09:07 by John Steele

Boeing's new 747-8 Intercontinental, a passenger version of the legendary 747 Jumbo Jet, completed its maiden voyage Sunday, taking off from Paine Field north of Seattle and landing safely about four-and-a-half hours later. 

On hand were thousands of Boeing employees and aviation enthusiasts, celebrating nearly 42 years of the original 747, and to witness this historical event, Reuters reported Sunday evening.

Among those watching the flight was Joe Sutter, the chief engineer of the original 747. As a tribute, Joe's initials were painted on the door of the 747-8.

"It makes me feel real good. The fellas are telling me I'm part of the team," Sutter told AFP.

The 747-8 Intercontinental will seat 467 passengers, 51 more than the current version of the 747. And with a lower-emission engine, the 747-8 joins the 787 Dreamliner in a line of in-the-works production planes to use lighter materials and less fuel.

The Dreamliner, like the 747-8, has been in the works for years and has a reduced-emission engine. The Dreamliner also uses a carbon-composite body, employing plastics as well as metals to make a lighter and more inexpensive production plane.

Boeing has taken orders for 33 747-8 passenger planes, according to the company website on Friday. The plane lists at $317.5 million. Germany's Lufthansa has ordered 20 of the planes, and is set to be the first airline to bring the new jumbo into service early next year.

But these airlines will have to wait a little while longer to bring the 747-8 to a runway near you. The plane still has a lot of work to do, despite glowing reviews from the flight crew.

"It just went perfectly," chief test pilot Mark Feuerstein told AFP after the flight, adding that, while it still faces months of test flights before being certified, "the airplane is actually ready to go fly right now."

Source: Reuters, AFP