Boeing sets aggressive 747-8 delivery schedule

The unveiling of a new jet, like the Boeing Co.’s 747-8 passenger plane, is just one step in a long journey to first delivery.

On Sunday, Boeing showed off its new 747-8 Intercontinental, in all its reddish-orange glory, to the world.

But Boeing’s passenger plane has a long

ways to go until first delivery late this year.

“The schedule is achievable but aggressive,” said Elizabeth Lund, deputy general manager of the 747-8 program for Boeing.

Boeing plans to put its updated jumbo jet in the sky for its first flight as early as next month. The company hopes to wrap up certification testing in the fall and deliver the first 747-8 passenger plane late in 2011.

Boeing intends to condense its flight test program on the Intercontinental due to testing the company already is doing on the 747-8 Freighter.

The freighter version of the 747-8 made its first flight in February 2010. The fifth freighter entered flight testing recently.

“We’ve been at it now for over a year and with really good results,” said Mark Feuerstein, 747 chief pilot, at a 747 event Saturday.

Many of the tests Boeing is doing on the freighter will count toward passenger plane certification as well, Lund said. Boeing already has been able to verify the noise the 747-8 will project on surrounding communities as it takes off and lands.

Boeing also has validated the weight of the 747-8’s wings as well as how the jumbo jet handles with ice clusters and water in the engines.

But Boeing’s 747-8 passenger plane still will have to prove how its flight controls function as well as how it flies with its galleys and lavatories in place, Lund said.

Boeing had planned to use two passenger planes for its 747-8 flight test program, which eventually will gain the jumbo jet approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the company could use a third 747-8 for limited testing, Lund said.

Lund and other Boeing executives hope that after the 747-8 Intercontinental shows it performs as planned, then additional customer orders will follow. The latest version of Boeing’s jumbo jet has 33 orders for its 747-8 passenger plane.

“We are very optimistic (about more orders),” Lund said.

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