3/20/2011: First Flight of the Boeing 747-8I

Today, in 2011, the Boeing 747-8I (Intercontinental) passenger wide-body airliner performed its maiden flight.



March 20, 2024

DALLAS — Today, in 2011, the Boeing 747-8I (Intercontinental) passenger wide-body airliner performed its maiden flight.

On November 14, 2005, the stretched Boeing 747 Advanced was introduced as the 747-8, with a market forecast of 300 aircraft. Boeing intended the type to fill a niche between the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777-300ER.

The Boeing 747-8 passenger version flew over Everett, Washington, US, for the first time on March 20, 2011. On April 26, 2011, the second 747-8I took to the skies. By December 2011, three 747-8 Intercontinentals had completed flight tests.

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 (D-ABYG). Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways.

Boeing 747-8I Design

The Boeing 747-8 was the largest version of the 747, the first lengthened 747 to go into production, and the second 747 version with a fuselage of modified length after the shortened 747SP.

Compared to the 747-400, Boeing updated the wings for the 747-8, which underwent a complete design overhaul. The sweep and basic structure had been kept to contain costs, but the wing was to be thicker and deeper, with the aerodynamics recalculated.

In addition, the Boeing 747-8's fuselage was stretched from 18 feet (5.6 meters) to 250 feet (76.3 meters), making it the world's longest airliner until the Boeing 777X-9 debuted in 2020. The wing is thicker and deeper, carrying more fuel, and broader with raked wingtips while maintaining its basic structure and sweep.

Furthermore, Boeing suggested modifying the aircraft's interior layout for the 747-8. Compared to the Boeing 747-400, the -8I's upper deck was longer. The curved stairway to the upper deck and a more spacious main passenger entrance became the most significant changes here.

The 747-8i was unveiled on Feb. 13, 2011, at the “Incredible, Again” ceremony. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing 747-8I Capacity

The Boeing 747-8's maximum take-off weight (MTOW) increased to 975,000 lb (442 t), making it the heaviest Boeing airliner and the heaviest commercial or military aircraft ever built in the United States. The type was powered by the more efficient General Electric GEnx turbofan found on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

Over the Boeing 747-400, the two 747-8 versions have a fuselage stretch of 18.3 ft (5.6 m), taking the total length to 250 ft 2 in (76.25 m). The 747-8 surpassed the Airbus A340-600 by 3.1 feet (0.95 m). 

In a conventional three-class configuration, the type's airliner version can carry 467 passengers over 7,790 nautical miles (14,430 km).

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways.

Boeing 747-8I Initial Orders

In May 2006, an undisclosed VIP customer placed the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental order. On December 6, 2006, Lufthansa (LH) became the first airline to order the 747-8 Intercontinental. Korean Air (KE) ordered five 747-8Is in December 2009. According to Boeing, the firm configuration was achieved in November 2007. 

Interestingly, the US Air Force was looking to replace the VC-25A in 2007 to upgrade Air Force One. In 2009, Boeing was said to be looking into a 747-8 proposition and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner version. Ultimately, the Air Force chose the Boeing 747-8 to replace the aging VC-25A as the presidential transport aircraft in January 2015.

Air China Boeing 747-8 (B-2487). Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways.

Boeing 747-8 Operations, Final Days

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental was delivered to LH on May 5, 2012, and began operating the type on flights from Frankfurt to Washington, DC, on June 1, 2012. On September 7, 2017, it was reported that Turkish Airlines (TK) was negotiating with Boeing to purchase eight 747-8Is to strengthen its wide-body fleet.

Until July 2018, there were 110 Boeing 747-8 aircraft in service with Lufthansa (19), Korean Air (17), Cargolux (14), Cathay Pacific Cargo (14), AirBridgeCargo Airlines (11), UPS Airlines (7), Polar Air Cargo (7), Air China (7), Silk Way West Airlines (5), Atlas Air (3), Qatar Airways Cargo (2), Saudia Cargo (2), Nippon Cargo Airlines (1), and CargoLogicAir (1). Previous operators included Global Supply Systems, a British Airways (BA) contractor.

Featured image: Brandon Farris/Airways. Article sources: Boeing 123.