747-8F / 747-8I


Jun 6, 2006
Farnborough: Boeing expects 747-8F orders to outpace A380F, considers stretch of passenger variant

Boeing says it expects to emerge as the clear favourite for large freighter orders over the next two decades, as it continues to refine its 747-8F aircraft.

Speaking at the Farnborough air show today, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally said that the airframer still expected the high-capacity market to cover only 900 aircraft.

While two-thirds of these would be split, he claims, evenly between the Boeing 747-8 passenger aircraft and the Airbus A380, he expects Boeing’s 747-8F to be “clearly preferredâ€￾ over the A380F, owing to its compatibility with the present 747 freighter fleet.

Cargolux and Nippon Cargo Airlines launched the 747-8F towards the end of last year with a combined order for 18 of the type. Airbus has firm commitments for 25 A380Fs, after losing an order for two further aircraft from Emirates.

Meanwhile Boeing is still refining the definition for the passenger Intercontinental version of its 747-8 and has yet to decide whether to increase the length of its fuselage to match that of the freighter version.

Speaking at the Farnborough air show today, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally said: “We’re designing it with the help of airlines. They’re helping us firm up what that passenger version should be.

“We need, with the help of those airlines, to decide how many passengers they want and trade between weight and payload. We have some space that we can trade.â€￾

He says that the company has plenty of time because it is not intending to firm the configuration of the 747-8 until next year.

While Boeing has secured orders for the freighter version of the aircraft, it has yet to seal a significant agreement to supply the passenger type. But Mulally says that the airframer is still in talks with more than 25 airlines over supplying the 747-8.

Boeing mulls 470-seat 747-8I incorporating longer stretch

Boeing is considering adopting a longer stretch for the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental passenger model to increase capacity to around 470 passengers when it firms up the specification next year.

When the General Electric GEnx-powered 747-8 programme was launched in November last year, the 747-8I featured a 3.6m (11.8ft) stretch over the 747-400, increasing three-class seating by 34 passengers to 450. However, the lead variant on the programme is the 747-8 Freighter, which has a 5.6m stretch, and this extension could be adopted for the passenger model, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president marketing Randy Baseler.

The 747-8I could be set to grow following requests for Boeing to consider using the freighter's 5.6m stretch

"We originally believed that the 20% size increase [over the 747-400] for the passenger model was what the market wanted, but some airlines have asked us to look into adopting the 5.6m fuselage stretch from the freighter, and weren't worried about losing a little range," he says.

"Three-class seating would increase to 467 passengers, but range will fall by around 200-300nm [370-560km] to around 8,000nm," he adds.

Boeing 747-8 product development chief engineer Roy Eggink confirms "we're working with customers" to define the exact length of the forward fuselage stretch, but adds that the final outcome rests on discussions over range/payload requirements and the potential uses of the "Skyloft" upper crown space. Although Eggink says various plug inserts are being studied, a "5.6m stretch, in terms of body length, is what we'd be looking at."

The studies, which will include forthcoming windtunnel tests at Qinetiq's 5m pressurised low-speed site at Farnborough in the UK, are also aimed at balancing capacity increases while maintaining range around the "sweet spot" of 15,000km. "We're starting to get a pretty good feel for where we're heading," says Eggink, who adds that the final stretch length will be decided by first quarter of 2007.

Baseler plays down Boeing's latest advertising campaign, which describes the 747-8I as having "500-seat capacity". He says that "the aircraft we're offering today is the 450-seater", and that even the capacity of the 5.6m stretch version would be well below 500 seats. "Whoever stands up first and says 'we'll buy the aircraft' will decide the size when we firm up the programme."

The 747-8F is scheduled to enter service with Cargolux in September 2009 with the 747-8I due to follow about six months after later, in the second quarter of 2010

New giant 'will avoid A380 vortex issues'

Boeing is confident that its new 747-8 family will not be dramatically affected by the wake vortex issues that have dogged the Airbus A380 and resulted in greatly increased separation distances between the ultra-large aircraft and other traffic during approach, cruise and for take-offs.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president marketing Randy Baseler says that the 747-8 is smaller and lighter than the A380, and its wake vortices are expected to only be "a little bit more" than today's 747-400.

Until the introduction of the A380, the 747-400 was the largest passenger aircraft in the International Civil Aviation Organisation's "heavy" separation category, and Airbus had hoped that the A380 would be given the same classification. However, after initial vortex results from A380 flight testing, ICAO last year implemented conservative limits that Airbus expects will be relaxed before service entry. But ICAO is expected to apply a new category or special conditions for the A380 above the 747-400, at least in the short term.

"ICAO was concerned about separation distances involving the A380 because of its size and its weight being in excess of 1,000,000lb [454t]," says Baseler. "The 747-8 will, at 980,000lb, be below that. It will also not have the wingspan or the body diameter of the A380, so its vortices are unlikely to be as great and we don't expect that it will be classified the same as the A380," he adds.