VIP customer, likely Qatar, takes delivery of Boeing’s first 747-8 Intercontinental

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — The Boeing Co. handed over the first 747-8 passenger plane to an undisclosed VIP customer on Tuesday.

“It’s been a long journey. It has been a great journey,” Elizabeth Lund, general manager of Boeing’s 747 program, said during a press conference Tuesday at the Future of Flight Aviation Center.

Though Boeing didn’t disclose the buyer, “several of our VIPs are from the Middle East region,” Lund said. And most are heads of state. “That seems to be a good fit,” she said. The airplane’s registration number, A7-HHE, can be traced to Qatar Amiri Flight, a VIP carrier owned by the government of Qatar.

The first 747-8 passenger plane that the average person, not a VIP, could fly on will be delivered soon to Lufthansa of Germany. The delivery date will be set in the next few weeks, Lund said.

Although it is the first 747-8 passenger plane, dubbed the Intercontinental, to be delivered, this particular jet won’t enter service until 2014 because it will take two years for an elaborate customized interior to be installed.

The 747-8 took off a little after 1 p.m. from Everett’s Paine Field, adjacent to the flight center, headed for Wichita, Kan. It was being flown by Capt. Steve Taylor, president of Boeing Business Jets.

Workers at Boeing’s defense site in Wichita will install an aeroloft, which will sleep eight crew members, at the back of the aircraft, above the main cabin. That will give the aircraft extra room, bringing the jet’s total cabin space to 5,179 square feet.

The VIP 747-8 then will be flown to Hamburg, Germany, where the rest of the interior will be installed over the next two years. Although Boeing didn’t give specifics, most 747 VIP jets aren’t configured to seat more than 100 people. The rest of the cabin space is devoted to private lounges, conference rooms, bedrooms and dining areas.

Boeing has orders for 36 747-8 passenger planes. Lund is optimistic that once the updated jumbo jet enters commercial service, more orders will follow. The company says this latest version of the 747, while larger, is quieter and burns less fuel than predecessors.

“The 747 is fast, efficient and quiet, offering real savings and a great flying experience,” Jim Albaugh, Boeing’s president of commercial airplanes, said in a statement. “And I believe it’s one of the most beautiful airplanes in the sky.”

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3453; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.