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August 3, 2011

Boeing 747-8 Freighter Completes Certification Flights

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Boeing’s new 747-8 Freighter jumbo jet completed its final certification test flights on Tuesday, a major milestone toward the first delivery scheduled for September.

Boeing 747-8 Freighter RC523 at Paine Field, Wash. after completing a 17 hour test flight.

Boeing 747-8 Freighter RC523 at Paine Field, Wash. after completing a 17 hour test flight. (Photo by Boeing)

Two planes, RC522 and RC523 flew final missions testing the aircraft’s flight management computer and function & reliability, with the latter jet flying 17 hours and painting a 747-shaped route over the western United States.

“This is such a great day for the new 747-8 and for all the employees who played a part in designing, building and testing this incredible, game-changing airplane,” said Elizabeth Lund, Boeing vice president and general manager, 747 program. “We are in the home stretch in delivering this airplane to our customers.”

Boeing will now send the data it has collected from the test program to the FAA, which will review the data and decide on certification within the next few weeks. The FAA’s partial shutdown is not expected to affect the certification process, according to Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx.

Capt. Mark Feuerstein, chief test pilot for the 747 program, said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon that the test aircraft have performed exceptionally well. RC523, for example, returned from its 17 hour flight on Tuesday with zero maintenance issues, and has completed most of its grueling test flights with 0-1 issues per flight.

Two non-urgent problems Feuerstein did mention involved advanced functionality in the plane’s new Flight Management Computer (FMC). The Required Navigation Performance of 0.1, which would set a new airliner standard of keeping a plane within 1/10 of a mile of its plotted route, is not quite ready, Feuerstein said. “Quiet Climb,” a feature in which the flight computer is meant to carefully throttle the engines in a way which reduces noise, is also not complete. Both features will be left out of delivery aircraft until they are refined.

Despite the tech shortcomings, Feuerstein shared an anecdote about the plane’s stealthyness without the help of the computer. While testing in San Bernadino, Calif. for several days, airport employees became convinced that 747-8 test pilots were gliding at low altitude with the engines turned off.



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