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February 28, 2012

Photos: Boeing Delivers First 747-8 Intercontinental, Though VIP Buyer Remains a Mystery

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first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental A7-HHE takes off on its delivery flight.

Boeing’s storied 747 program reached a new milestone on Tuesday as the airframer delivered its first 747-8 Intercontinental, the latest and largest passenger version of the iconic airliner.

Unlike most deliveries of such importance, this first copy was delivered not to a commercial airline, but to an undisclosed VIP customer, whose secrecy made the event somewhat anti-climactic. Press and spectators were not allowed anywhere near the bare white Boeing Business Jets-variant of the plane, and were relegated to watching the largest passenger jet ever delivered by Boeing from a distance.

Though Boeing officials would not make a peep about who the mystery-buyer is, the aircraft does sport a registration from Qatar, A7-HHE. AirlineReporter ran a story on Monday indicating that the buyer was Qatar Amiri Flight, the government-owned airline charged with transporting Qatari officials.

Whoever it is, “I can tell you they are really excited to take delivery of this aircraft and they tell me when it is done it will be the ‘Jewel of the sky,'”said Steve Taylor, President of Boeing Business Jets, who also served as captain of the delivery flight to Wichita.

First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental delivery, A7-HHE, takes off from Paine Field. (Photo by Liem Bahneman)

First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental delivery, A7-HHE, takes off from Paine Field. (Photo by Liem Bahneman)
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First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental delivery, A7-HHE, takes off from Paine Field. (Photo by Liem Bahneman)

The 747-8I can carry up to 467 passengers in a three-class, airline-style configuration. This one, which will likely be fitted with posh accoutrements such as bedrooms and conference rooms, will only seat about 100. Boeing execs did say today that airplane was delivered in a “green configuration,” meaning without any seats or most passenger amenities: only sidewalls, lighting, bins, some lavs and galleys. It will spend the next six months in Wichita, Kan., where Boeing Global Transport & Executive Systems will install an Aeroloft sleeping quarter for up to eight crewmembers above the main cabin in the rear of the plane, adding about 393 sq ft of usable space. From Wichita the plane will fly to Hamburg, Germany, where Lufthansa Technik will spend another two years outfitting the massive 4,786 sq ft of cabin space.

Boeing delivered the first 747-8 Freighter to launch customer Cargolux on Oct. 12, 2011. The airline launch customer for the 747-8I, Lufthansa, is expected to receive its first plane in the next couple of months.

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