Boeing Debuts 747-8 Intercontinental

The "next-gen Jumbo" Boeing 747-8 commercial aircraft made its debut today in a hangar of the Boeing Company in Everett, Wash., with top brass in attendance including the father of the 747, Joseph Sutter.

The new 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft is the longest, quietest, and most fuel-efficient commercial carrier in the sky, Boeing says.

The plane seats 467 in three classes on two decks, as compared to the Airbus A380s' 525, but is 12 feet longer than the comparable Airbus model and 11% more fuel-efficient, reducing costs per passenger seat-mile by 6% overall, according to Boeing.

The 747-8 uses a GEnx engine by General Electric rather than the Rolls Royce engine model used by Airbus.

Similar to the A380, the 747-8 has the flight range of 8,000 nautical miles, enough to pair two cities across the world, such as New York and Hong Kong, without making a stop.

" Getty/Stephen Brashear

"Boeing has molded and changed 20th century from WWII to the Jet Age to space, but this is the biggest, widest, and most fuel efficient airplane that we have ever built," says Jim Albaugh, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who spoke at the rollout, which was webcast Sunday.

"We have gone through a few struggles getting here but this is the airplane that is going to change the world," Albaugh says.

Compared to the 747-ERF, the last model of the 747-400 series, the new aircraft is six feet longer and about four feet wider, with 43 added seats in economy, seven extra seats in business and a single extra seat in first class. The airplane provides 16 percent better fuel economy, 16 percent less carbon emissions per passenger and generates a 30 percent smaller noise footprint than the 747-400, plus it offers more room for personal belongings.

Inside, soft LED illumination throughout the aircraft may offer an illusion of spaciousness.

Getty/Stephen Brashear

The First Class section produces personal pods as seats. The seat unfolds to become a canoe-like, 180-degree pitch bed, half enclosed for a sense of space and privacy.

Airlines can add additional features including individual cabins with seat, desk, entertainment system and separate bed, and some artist renderings show a wine bar and lounge on the upper deck.

Business Class seats run in a two-three-two row formation and unfold into a slanted 90-degree pitch toward the floor.

Economy has a three-four-three seat configuration, with roomier overhead compartments.

The new aircraft made its world debut in a swirl of red, orange and white colors, rather than Boeing blue.

"Red and orange symbolize prosperity and success in many parts of the world," says Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of airplane programs for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, adding it required the same quantity of color that would be used in six 737s to paint this aircraft.

Korean Air and VIP customers have joined launch customer Lufthansa in ordering a total of 33 747-8 Intercontinentals. First delivery of those orders should take place in the fourth quarter of this year. About a year behind schedule, the new plane is expected to take to the air for the first time in March.

The 747-8 is the fourth generation commerical Boeing 747, and comes 44 years after the first 747 series model debuted on September 30, 1968.

Photo, Getty/Stephen Brashear
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