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Boeing unveils latest version of its 747 jumbo jet

Boeing747

Ever since Boeing Co.'s 747 jumbo jet made its first commercial flight more than 40 years ago, the plane has been an icon of the aviation industry.

On Sunday, Boeing unveiled a larger, quieter and more fuel-efficient version of the passenger jet, which was shown to a crowd of 10,000 in Everett, Wash.

The mammoth plane, dubbed 747-8 Intercontinental, was painted in a retro-looking "sunrise livery" of red, orange and white, which is a major departure from Boeing's standard blue and white.

"The new color palette honors many key Boeing customers whose cultures recognize these colors as symbols of prosperity and good luck," the company said in a statement.

Designed to carry between 400 and 500 passengers, the plane is about 250 feet long. That is 18 feet longer than the current 747 jumbo and carries 51 more passengers.

It also has an overhauled interior design that borrows from Boeing's forthcoming next generation passenger jet, the 787 Dreamliner. The 787 is smaller than the 747 and seats up to 290 people. It is currently in flight test.

The Chicago-based company said the interior design includes "a new curved, upswept architecture giving passengers a greater feeling of space and comfort."

Boeing's selling point to carriers is that the 747-8 offers 16% better fuel economy and 16% fewer carbon emissions per passenger than its predecessor. Flight testing is expected to start next month.

There are 107 orders for 747-8s, which includes the passenger and freight versions. Only 33 passenger planes have been ordered.

"The new 747-8 Intercontinental features the latest in innovative technologies -- applying many of the breakthroughs also found on the 787 Dreamliner," Boeing Chief Executive Jim Albaugh said in a statement. "We think our customers will value the low operating costs, and passengers will enjoy the comfort of the striking new interior."

The 747's cavernous cabin is built in Hawthorne by Triumph Aerostructures-Vought Commercial Division. Twice a week, the company ships fuselage panels and sends them along to Boeing in three custom, oversized railroad cars to Boeing's assembly plant in Everett, Wash.

The site has produced the fuselage panels for every 747 that has taken to the skies -- including Air Force One -- since the aircraft program began in 1966.

The Hawthorne site is five miles east of Los Angeles International Airport. Every day, employees at the plant can see the fruits of their labor. Dozens of 747s carry thousands of passengers from the airport to far-flung destinations in Asia and Europe each day.

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-- W.J. Hennigan

Photo: Boeing unveiled its new 747-8 Intercontinental on Sunday in Everett, Wash. Credit: Boeing Co.

 
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