Boeing’s 747-8 Intercontinental: A Virtual Tour and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 6 August 2012
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Boeing’s largest airplane, the 747-8 Intercontinental, was officially put into service by launch customer Lufthansa on its Frankfurt-Washington route in June.  The brand new jet is bigger, quieter, and more efficient when compared to the first 747 that entered service 42 years earlier.

The new 747-8 Intercontinental uses much of the same technology that is found in the new 787 Dreamliner, an aircraft that began service last December, as well as all-new wing and engine designs.

My earliest recollections of flight are of a Boeing 747-100 that I flew on to London several times when I was a child.  The original 747 was the first wide-body aircraft when it was introduced in 1970. Nicknamed “Jumbo Jet,” it was the world’s largest passenger aircraft for almost 40 years.

Boeing built the 747 largely at the request of Juan Trippe, president of Pan American World Airways, who wanted a aircraft that was more than twice the size of the Boeing 707.  The 707 had a capacity of between 142 to 202 passengers; the then-new 747 could accommodate 366 passengers in a three-class configuration and 452 in a two-class configuration.  Subsequent models of the 747, such as the 747-200 and 747-400, had passenger capacities that reached 524 in a two-cabin layout.

Over the years, Boeing gave consideration to making an even larger 747, but it was only in 2004 that the aircraft manufacturer announced it would build a longer version of the jet, using technology from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to update its systems.  That aircraft was unveiled as the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental in November 2005.  In the meantime, Airbus had announced its A380 jumbo jet, which made its maiden flight in April of 2005.

The Boeing 747-8 is the largest commercial aircraft built in the U.S. and, at 250.3 feet (76.3 meters), is also the longest passenger aircraft in the world, having wrestled that title from the Airbus A340-600, which lost out by roughly three feet, or 0.91 meters.  It can accommodate 467 passengers in a three-class configuration, and can hold 51 more passengers than the 747-400.  Compared to that aircraft, it is 30% quieter, 16% more fuel efficient, and has 13% lower seat-mile costs.

The first 747-8 aircraft to be built were freighters, the 747-8F, and the first one was delivered to launch customer Cargolux in October, 2011.  The first passenger version of the 747-8 was a so-called VIP version, which was delivered to an undisclosed customer in February 2012.  The 747-8 VIP has a 4,786-square-foot (444.6-square-meter) cabin and has a capacity of 100 passengers, with a range of nearly 8,840 nautical miles (16,372 km).  It will not, however, take to the air until 2014.


The 747-8 is striking in appearance in its Lufthansa livery.  The fuselage is painted in traditional Lufthansa white, while the tailfin and logo on the fuselage are in what the airline calls Night Blue. The Lufthansa logo, an encircled crane in flight, is of course on the tailfin, on a Melon Yellow background.  (Night Blue and Melon Yellow are Lufthansa’s official colors.)

The 747’s double-decker design for part of its length gives it a unique appearance that has made it one of the most recognizable planes in the world

Its iconic hump has been extended and the aircraft itself has been lengthened roughly 18 feet (six meters) over its immediate predecessor, giving it room for 51 more passengers.

The redesigned wings have a state-of-the-art profile and raked wingtips, to improve aerodynamics.  The aircraft uses General Electric GEnx-2B67 engines, a modified  form of the 787 Dreamliner’s, which are very fuel efficient and also produce fewer emissions and less noise.  In this configuration, the 747-8 consumes 13% less fuel than the Boeing 747-400.

Click here to continue to Page 2Inside the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, New Business Class, and First Class

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