Over the hump, and other 747 news

As became clear last week, we’ve had our share of challenges on the 747-8 program, but it’s moving ahead and things are taking shape in the factory right now.

So, I thought that rather than just talking about the progress on the 747-8 Freighter, why not show you? Nothing says progress more than sharing a couple of photos from the factory.

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The Section 41 cab for the first 747-8F is loaded into place in Everett.

As you can see, we’ve had a significant first, as the 747-8 team loaded Section 41 into the assembly tool. This is the part of the 747 that people think of when they think of this iconic airplane – the signature “hump.”

Section 41 happens to be the first part of the fuselage to be completed for the 747-8F. It’s a major assembly section supplied by Spirit Aerosystems. As you might guess, it also presents some challenges because of its unique shape. That’s a point of pride for the Section 41 team – getting this key assembly right.

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Crews place the first 747-8 Freighter’s lower lobe of section 41 into the assembly tool.

Most of the crew has worked on a number of 747 models, but for the veterans as well as the more recent employees on the project, it’s also still a learning experience. This is essentially a new airplane.

First flight of the 747-8F is scheduled for later this year. First delivery is planned for the third quarter of next year.

Now while we’re on the subject of icons, I thought you’d also enjoy some of the great material Delta Air Lines has put together on their Under the Wing blog.

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The first 747-400 in Delta colors arrives in Tokyo. (Delta Air Lines photo)

The first of 16 747-400s operated by Northwest Airlines rolled out of a paint hangar in California last month, proudly decked out in Delta livery, and then flew its first mission to Tokyo in the new colors. Personally, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride here too. Back when I was a Boeing sales director for Northwest, it’s likely I actually sold them this airplane – my very first sale was a 747 to NWA.

Finally, I wouldn’t be discharging my duty to bring you some of the more unusual news out there, if I didn’t link you to some further evidence – this time from Stockholm – of just how versatile Boeing airplanes can be - a 747 converted into a “Jumbo Hostel.”

I must admit I never imagined weddings on the wings, and a flight deck converted into a bridal suite complete with private bathroom. Kind of gives new meaning to, “If it’s not Boeing I’m not going.”

Comments (12)

Chris C (South Africa):

These are exciting times indeed on the 747 program. And, in 6 days time, we’ll be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the 747! What a remarkable feat, to say the least! No one could’ve predicted that when back in a cold, wintery Seattle on February 9th, 1969, when the first 747-100 soared gracefully into the sky, that 4 decades on, the 747 was about to launch an all-new era of 21st-Century, state-of-the-art jumbo-jet air-travel onboard the 747-8.

The 747-8 is an airplane beyond superlatives, and whilst the market response (in terms of orders) for the 747-8I has been rather disappointing, this airplane has a vital market niche to fulfil, and there’s still many opportunities for this airplane to secure more orders in the coming months and years. The 747-8I has arrived almost prematurely to its intended, vital market segment, and I’m firmly predicting we’ll see some significant orders for this model towards 2011 and onwards.

The 747-8I is the modern day 777-200LR so to speak...an airplane that has a limited appeal initially, but slowly garners important orders and completes the Boeing Commercial Airplane portfolio. There is no other airplane as cost-effective as the 747-8I in the large airplane market and it is an optimised airplane in the 400seat to 500seat market. The -8I is an exciting airplane, and there’s good demand for it already from Lufthansa and the VIP customers who could take delivery of the airplane today if they could.

The 747-8F is the freighter of the future, period.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Seeing those pieces come together. Magic. I think by February 9, I'll need to pop some bubbly to celebrate! That first 747-8 is coming together against the backdrop of dire economic hardship and uncertainty, and the supposed shadow that the Airbus A380 now casts over this 40 year young icon.

Will economic hurdles be the undoing of this beauty, as it undone the Concorde, or will the 747 prevail, once again, because it has risen to the occasion and roundly beat expectations? Who cares? When you talk about the 747, the promise has always been more against the industry benchmark - which it set. And this 747-8 is no different.

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And Delta colors on a 747 - it's been while!

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

I am glad to see the first 747-8 come together, when it is finally assembled it will be the longest commercial airliner in the world three feet longer than the stilty A340-600. The new 747 fits the cargo niche very well as it can open and load from the front, something no other civilian cargo plane can do. I can't wait for the roll out and first flight.

It is nice to see a Delta Air Lines 747-400, there has not been a 747 in Delta colors since the mid seventies!

Erik (Malmo, Sweden):

About this 747 hotel, I agree that the best way to make money out of any 747 is probably to ground it.

Hans Jakobsson (Stockholm, Sweden):

Thank you very much for mentioning us at Jumbo Hostel in Stockholm in your blog. We appreciate this very much and are confident that we have given your Queen of the Skies an appropriate second life after 32 years in the sky!

Feel free to visit our website at www.jumbohostel.com or contact me for further details. We are opening a mini museum to the 747 later this year, the 40th anniversary of her maiden flight. Our aircraft is #283 and was built in 1976. The conversion from empty hull to opening for guests took 3,5 months.

Again thank you, being mentioned by Boeing is really an honour.

Hans Jakobsson
Aviation Technical Consultant
Project Historian

Jumbo Hostel
Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, Sweden

Mike (United States):

Great Blog! the 747 in Delta's colors looks so nice, and in a few days, the 40 year anniversary of the first 747 flight will take place.

The 747 has done more to bring the whole world together and expand people's horizons more than any leader throughout history ever did.

While the 777 is an amazing airplane and the A380 is larger, the 747 will always be special in many people's hearts as it is most likely the most loved aircraft in aviation history.

J.D. Drollinger (Renton):

The 747 in Delta colors is bittersweet for me. I was a flight attendant for Northwest Orient back in the mid 80's and at the time I had flown on all the 747's NWA had, so to see Northwest go away and now in the Delta colors, I will no longer be able to look up at an NWA 747 and say I flew on that plane. But I am excited to see Delta expanding its aircraft family.

TC (Mt. Vernon, WA):

The Douglas stretch of the DC-8 proved to be the most valued version, still flying after 40 years. If history repeats, Boeing is now building the best platform of the 747, the new super-8.

Brent Joshua Wilcke:

I remember the first time I saw a BigBo up close. It was right before the filming of 'terminal velocity',..starring Charlie Sheen.

I was working the End of Runway crew for the 358th Lobos night training,..A-10 pilot training program.
I saw the BigBo come in on a tailwind,..which was unorthodox for the DM runway,...thing damn near skipped off into the tumbleweeds. No one seem'd privy to the aircraft's arrival,..so I took the initiative to make a visual with the pilot,...just to see if there was that admirable trust,..I'd grown to appreciate when dealing with the best in the business.

I was intimidated to say the least. Those gigantic,whirling fanblades look'd hungry. The windstream they drew to the leading edge flaps was identified by a breathtaking vortex of Arizona sand. I made my way to the runway landing lights,..just to let the skipper know my intentions. He gave a curious look as I gave him the signal to shut down. His compliance was well within the limits of due respect.(he would later find out that their was a C-5 enroute,..and therefore,..realized how much fuel I'd saved him,..it would be 2-days before the bird could be fired up and taxied back towards the transient alert pad)

Walking away from that Giant 'Tower Air' 747,..has been a memory that I'll hold with me until the day I die. You'd laugh if I told U how many people I ran down,...just to point at the Transient alert pad,..and tell them I'd taxied in the most famous 747 of Charlie Sheen's acting career.

Alessandro (Sweden):

I don´t share the optimistic view on the -800 programme, I think Boeing should offer a upgrade kit from the -400 to the -800 if possible, when the orders for this bird dries up.

Seth Frey (Chicago):

Appreciate the tutorial. Insightful, and the use of social media is certainly working for me. Keep building the brand.

avraam (cyprus):

Boeing 747 is here for more than 40 years,and i believe Boeing 747-8I is going to be here for the next 40 years.

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