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New Boeing 747 completes FAA certification test flights

August 4, 2011 |  1:31 pm

The latest and largest version of Boeing Co.'s 747 jumbo jet completed flight tests mandated by the  Federal Aviation Administration, getting one step closer to entering regular service.

The plane, dubbed 747-8 Freighter, is the cargo version of the iconic passenger jet. Boeing's selling point to cargo carriers is that the mammoth plane offers 16% better fuel economy than its predecessor. It's also larger, which translates to four additional main-deck pallets and three additional lower-hold pallets, Boeing said.

Before the plane is officially certified, the FAA has to pore over data from more than 1,200 flights totaling 3,400 hours since its first flight Feb. 8, 2010. During the homestretch, Boeing flew in a flight pattern that traced the numbers 7-4-7 in the skies, as this Associated Press story points out.

There are 78 orders for 747-8 Freighters, the first of which is set to be delivered in September to Cargolux Airlines International, a Luxembourg cargo airline.

"This is such a great day for the new 747-8 and for all the employees who played a part in designing, building and testing this incredible, game-changing airplane," Elizabeth Lund, Boeing vice president and general manager of the 747 program, said in a statement.

The 747's cavernous cabin is built in Hawthorne by Triumph Aerostructures-Vought Commercial Division. Twice a week, the company ships fuselage panels in three custom, oversize 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 site is five miles east of Los Angeles International Airport, where the 747-8 Freighter touched down on the last leg of its test flight certification.

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All Nippon Airways unveils luxury touches for interior of the first Boeing Dreamliners

-- W.J. Hennigan

twitter.com/wjhenn

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