February 9 - Boeing's new 747-8 freighter successfully conducted its first test flight yesterday at the start of the new models test program.
Boeing claims that once in service the 747-8 will "…give cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any freighter".
Mo Yahyavi, the 747 program general manager and vice president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes said that: "This truly is a great day for The Boeing Company and the 747 program.
"It's the culmination of the hard work and dedication of our employees, suppliers and customers. While there is still much to do, I am excited to begin the flight-test program, which will demonstrate the capabilities of this airplane."
The importance of a successful test schedule for the new Boeing is hard to overstate. The company is facing increasing opposition across the globe from European rivals Airbus, not helped by the fact that Airbus is the recipient of large government subsidies.
At stake for the two rivals is an air freight market that, though hard hit by the recent economic situation, is expected to burgeon over the next two decades. For Asia alone Airbus has recently projected that their market share of the aircraft industry will return sales for them of over a trillion dollars with sales to exceed 8000 aircraft, with cargo freighters accounting for up to 400f the total.
With this in mind Boeing need a winner in the 747-8 to retain their place as the world's premier 'big-bird' builder, especially in the face of problems that have recently surfaced in the development program of the delayed 787 series.
However, the comments of test pilot Mark Feuerstein, who said "…the airplane performed as expected and handled just like a 747-400," should do much to encourage both Boeing's shareholders and the air freight companies that have preordered some seventy six 747-8 freighters.