Boeing 747-8 freighter finally takes off

09 / 02 / 2010

BOEING’S much-delayed freighter – the 747-8 – has finally taken its maiden flight a year late and having racked up more than US$1bn in charges for the delay.

A larger version of the 747-400, the 747-8 is over 76m long, has a wingspan of more than 68m and has a payload of 133.9 metric tonnes.

Boeing, which is hoping it will become the default freighter for the high-capacity, long-haul cargo market, is marketing it as being more aerodynamically efficient, quieter, more fuel efficient and cleaner than the 747-400, leading to lower operating costs of around 16 per cent.

The freighter programme was launched in 2005 and first delivery was due last year, but late design changes, problems with the supply chain and a two-month strike at the Seattle plant kept setting that date back.

Now the company faces weak customer demand following the delays and the recent slump in airfreight traffic.

With a list price of $301m Boeing only has 76 orders on its books for the aircraft and has had to admit that it faces a “huge challenge” making it profitable.

Boeing’s marketing vice-president, Randy Tinseth, says: “After taking the charges, we still believe that there is a strong demand for the airplane.

"It is a good case, but clearly not the business case that we expected, when we launched the programme”.

After the full range of test flights and check the first freighter will be refitted and sent to cargolux, which has 10 of them on order.