World's First Jumbo Jet Gets Makeover

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Boeing

The world's first jumbo jet is getting a makeover. The iconic Boeing 747, which debuted 40 years ago this month, is becoming less about luxury and more about efficiency.

Luxury emanated from the multi-leveled plane during its maiden commercial flight on January 21, 1970. Not only was the plane nearly three times larger than the largest jet available at the time, allowing more passengers to take to the skies at once, but the interior changed the face of air travel. Swanky penthouse bars, complete with live piano music, and spiral staircases elevated the flying experience.

Times have changed, and now, so must the 747. The new iteration, dubbed the 747-8, features new, efficient engines and specially engineered wings, designed to reduce drag and improve performance. The jumbo jet is also getting a size upgrade, with an additional 18 feet added to the fuselage. The added space will increase the airplane's volume by 16 percent, adding 51 more seats than the previous model, the -400.

The redesign comes as Boeing struggles to get back on top, after being stripped of the title of world's largest passenger jet two years ago by the the double-decked Airbus A380.

While the 747-8 won't be able to carry as many passengers as the A380-a three class arrangement shows the A380 carrying 550 passengers, while the 747-8 can only accommodate 450-Boeing claims the 747-8's efficiency makes up for the lack of capacity. According to Wired, Boeing says the 747-8 passenger plane will consume 11 percent less fuel per passenger on each flight, and that the fuel savings will amount to a 6 percent drop in the overall cost per seat per mile.

Airbus denies Boeing's claims, saying their A380 is more fuel efficient, burning 2 percent less fuel than the 747-8, and cites their larger capacity as an advantage over Boeing.

Aside from the passenger-carrying 747-8 Intercontinental, Boeing is also making a version of the aircraft designated solely for carrying freight.

The 747-8 isn't Boeing's only recent project. On December 15, 2009 the long-awaited 787 Dreamliner, which utilizes a radical lightweight design and numerous revolutionary features, took to the skies for its maiden voyage.

Many of the technologies developed for the 787 Dreamliner will be present in the new 747-8, including the new fuel efficient engines and wing configurations, as well as interior configurations and flight deck technologies. The technologies will allow for reduced noise and emissions, improved operation, and for increased passenger comfort.

Boeing plans for the 747-8's maiden voyage to take place in the next few weeks, departing from the same runway at Paine Field in Everett, Washington where the 787 first took flight.

Take a look behind the scenes:

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