Big­gest Boe­ing plane ever takes to the sky, first flight for 747-8 freighter

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT -

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Boe­ing Co.’s gi­ant 747-8 freighter — the big­gest plane the com­pany has ever built — took off on its first flight Mon­day, a year later than orig­i­nally planned.

The huge plane took off from Everett’s Paine Field af­ter a weather de­lay. It was to re­turn to the air­port af­ter a flight ex­pected to last about 4 hours.

Hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees and other air­plane fans gath­ered to watch the plane take to the air. The flight came just one day short of the 41st an­niver­sary of the first flight of the orig­i­nal 747 model.

At 76 me­tres long — more than twice the length of the Wright Broth­ers’ first flight — the plane is about 5.5 me­tres longer than the ex­ist­ing 747-400 jumbo jet. The com­pany con­ducted taxi tests on the freighter Satur­day, with the air­craft per­form­ing well, Boe­ing said.

Boe­ing also is de­vel­op­ing a passenger ver­sion of the plane. It lists 76 or­ders for the freighter and 32 for the 747-8 passenger jet, with the vast ma­jor­ity from in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers.

The com­pany says the jets will be much qui­eter, more fuel ef­fi­cient and have lower emis­sions than cur­rent 747-400 mod­els.

Boe­ing launched the freighter pro­gram on Nov. 14, 2005, with firm or­ders for 10 planes from Car­golux of Lux­em­bourg and eight from Nip­pon Cargo Air­lines of Ja­pan. The jet has a list price of more than US$301 mil­lion, though air­lines com­monly ne­go­ti­ate dis­counts.

Af­ter com­plet­ing the test pro­gram, the first freighter will be re­fit­ted and de­liv­ered to Car­golux.

The freighter ver­sion is to en­ter ser­vice late this year. The first de­liv­ery was to have been in late 2009 and the first passenger ver­sion in late 2010, but Boe­ing pushed back the dates due to de­sign changes, lim­ited en­gi­neer­ing re­sources and an eightweek strike that shut down fac­to­ries.

Boe­ing’s Euro­pean ri­val Air­bus had planned a freighter ver­sion of the Air­bus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet. How­ever, that pro­gram was put on hold in 2007 af­ter FedEx Corp. and UPS Inc. can­celled their or­ders, leav­ing Air­bus with an empty or­der book for the cargo plane. The A380 air­liner made its first flight in April 2005 and went into ser­vice in Oc­to­ber 2007.

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