The Boeing 747-8I will perform its maiden flight later this month, with insiders at the company suggesting March 20 as the takeoff date.
Although the company declined to confirm the date, company sources say the engine runs came two days ahead of schedule, Flight International reports, showing Boeing’s eagerness to get their largest ever passenger jet in the air.
The 747-8 Intercontinental ran its engines for the first time on Tuesday in an important milestone for the programme. The engines were run for approximately two hours and 45 minutes. They were operated at various power settings to ensure all systems performed as expected. Basic systems checks continued throughout the test before the engines were powered down and inspected. They will be restarted following a technical review. The Boeing test team completed a vibration check and monitored the shutdown to ensure everything functioned as expected.
“The integrated airplane systems and engines performed as expected,” said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and deputy program manager of the 747 programme. “This result allows us to continue moving forward to first flight.”
The 747-8 is the largest version of the 747, the largest commercial aircraft built in the United States, and the longest passenger aircraft in the world. It is 18 feet longer than the 747-400 it replaces and includes a new wing, engines and cockpit, which is based on the 787 Dreamliner.
The 747-8 is powered by four General Electric GEnx-2B engines, optimised especially for the 747-8. General Electric has designed the engine to be efficient, quiet and clean to enhance environmental performance and lower operating costs. Each engine produces approximately 66 500 pounds of thrust and is a derivative of the GEnx-1B originally designed for the 787.
Some testing still needs to be done before the 747-8 Interncontinental can take to the skies, including low and high speed taxi testing and testing and systems checks.
Boeing is planning a roughly 600 hour long flight test campaign with two aircraft. This will finish in the third or fourth quarter of the year, with certification being achieved by year-end. The first 747-8, in Boeing Business Jet configuration, will be handed over to the government of Kuwait.
“We time it pretty much in line with the natural replacement cycle for the 747-400,” said Marlin Dailey, Boeing’s executive vice president for sales and marketing of commercial aircraft. “In the 2013-2014 time frame, airlines are going to start to look into airplanes to replace their 747s,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Air China announced it had placed orders for five 747-8Is from Boeing, which is struggling to find buyers for its flagship widebody in the wake of soaring fuel prices. Flag carrier Air China is the third airline to order the passenger version of the aircraft after Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which has 20 aircraft on order, and Korean Air Liens, with five on order.
Air China said in a statement that the combined list price of the aircraft comes to US$1.54 billion but Boeing had granted it ‘significant price concessions’. The five aircraft will be delivered in 2014 and 2015.
In total, Boeing has received 112 orders for the cargo and passenger versions of the 747-8. The first 747-8F (Freighter) performed the model’s maiden flight on February 8, 2010.