A Closer Look: 747 flight deck evolves with the -8


Yesterday, Boeing released a photo from the flight deck of RC501 during power on testing for the first 747-8 freighter, and I was struck by the (subtle) differences between the -8 and the -400 cockpits.

Many of the changes build on the 747 flight deck upgrades that found their way into later -400 models, including LCD displays to replace the CRT screens and consolidation of the back up instruments to a single unit.

The 747-8 maintains the same type rating as the -400, but adds HF datalink, new multifunction displays (MFD), a new LCD flight management computer (FMC) interface, cursor control knob like that on the 787, vertical situation display, as well as electronic checklists like those first introduced by Boeing on the 777.

The avionics will also enable RNP .1 navigation for precision approaches and departures.

Other subtle changes to the pilot interface include the removal of the center detent in the landing gear lever. Previously, crews would have to set the lever to ‘up’, then to ‘off’ once retracted. Crews need only to set the ‘up’ position to retract the landing gear after takeoff. As a result of the smaller landing gear lever, the autobrake selector has also been relocated to just above the first officer’s FMC, similar to the arrangement in the 777 and 787.

In addition, as a result of the additional multifunction display options, the Display Select Panel on the glareshield, which sits between the Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS) and the autopilot Mode Control Panel (MCP), reflects a 777-style arrangement to select a range of synoptic pages on the left and right inboard displays and lower center MFD.

Photo Credit Boeing
Graphic Credit FlightBlogger

18 Responses to A Closer Look: 747 flight deck evolves with the -8

  1. jerry August 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    looks the same, i was expecting a 787 like system with 4 or 5 lcds, guess not

  2. WingBender August 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Will the changes to the 747 cockpit lead to further delays on the 787 program? Thanks in advance.

  3. Roberto Alpizar August 18, 2009 at 8:56 pm #


    Programs are separate, that doesn’t mean the 787 program will be delayed further more.

    Although the 747-8 has the rating of the -400, the training approach on the -8 is going to be different regarding EFIS, because the EFIS on the -8 has a lot more information available to the crew than the -400


  4. keesje August 19, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    Confirms the 747-8 does not have a new cockpit. Enhancements to the -400 cockpit is a more accurate description.

    The 747 classic to -400 cockpit upgrade in the eighties was much more significant.

  5. Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA) August 19, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    I like it. The 747-400′s cockpit was a big part in that plane’s improved safety record over the Classics. There’s a couple of nice new stuff in the 747-8, like the vertical situation display and datalink (to facilitate FANS). Improves a pretty good design.

  6. Rob42 August 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    Why on earth did they stick with that nasty ’70s brown plastic? Safety feature?

  7. FlightTestEngineer August 20, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    Very pour in my opinion. With such a big fuz about new generation of 747 and so on, Boeing really needed a new and shiny large LCD display cockpit.

  8. Frank August 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    Shame some people seem disappointed by the fact there seems to be no revolution in the panel layout a la 787. This plane is the latest (last) evolution of a money-making machine. Operators are not queuing in line to get the latest gadgets, bells and whistles on their new equipment. They just want better fuel economy and overall performance while still being able to use the guys already flying the 747-400. Introducing a fully new cockpit philosophy for a relatively small fleet would kill any interest from current 744 operators, and send development cost through the roof

  9. Robert August 24, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    Because the airlines will be flying these new planes simultaneously with old 747-400′s for several years, it makes sense to have the controls as similar as possible. Change for the sake of change only is silly, except the comment about the ugly brown plastic is sooooo right.

  10. Maarten August 25, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    The change from CRT to LCD and the integrated stand-by was already made on the latest -400s, so is not new on the -8. The screens do appear to be slightly larger though.

  11. Ahmad Dan-Hamidu August 27, 2009 at 2:53 am #

    I’m not impressed! I expected a radical facelift (physically, aesthetically and electronically) to the cockpit. I expected curved:

    1. Touch-screen, OLED screens; the new autopilot-coupled TCAS that Airbus is working slowly on.

    2. Cockpit window/windshield-embedded, OLED-HUDs (Heads-Up Displays with touch-glass control…to oust those massive overhead-mounted HUD units). This feature would allow short/tall pilots to “drag” with their finger, the projected “horizon” reticle on the windshield around until its aligned with their eye-on-horizon posture. Because OLED screens can be a transparent, cellophane-looking film, it can be pasted on the inner laminate of the windshield. Waddaya think of that?

    3. An equivalent of Gulfstream’s “PlaneView” and “PlaneBook” system.

    4. InfraRed EVS (also on Gulfstreams).

    5. Should I go on folks?

  12. Wilber Wrong August 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    Not a lot of difference and no doubt it will all work fine, it’s about time Boeing thought about our eating meals up front, so just when will Boeing swallow their pride and get rid of that bloody yoke, it can get in the way when eating.

  13. George Powell September 2, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    I rather like it. It is a gentle evolution from the -400ER flight deck, which itself was of course a minor evolution on from the original -400.

    Just by looking at it I can see several current maintenance issues have been removed completely from the aircraft, which I know from personnel experience will improve despatch reliability.

    It’s just a shame i’ll probably never get to work on one.

  14. Karl September 2, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    I agree with that airlines want fuel efficiency and better overall performance, yet they still want certain innovations that differ from the previous models (eg the new FMC, Avionics…).

    There is no need to implement an autopilot that can handle TCAS RA’s as it isn’t something that is compulsory.

    If Boeing were to redesign the whole flight deck, you could expect more delays and higher design costs (as Frank pointed out).

    The 747-8 and the 747-400′s flight deck was expected to be similar, it was pointed out in many articles.

    Maybe if Boeing decided to go full FBW with the 747-8 then we would see some major flight deck changes.

  15. John September 2, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    Hey Ahmad, Boeing might as well draw up another family of the 7 series if they were to create a plane with all the features you mentioned.

    It would have been too costly and it would take too much time to implement such features, thus by the time the first 747-8 was to be produced, there would be something new that it would be lacking in.

    Also, Boeing might as well create a full FBW system if it were to redesign the whole system.

    Boeing would rather create a new product with modest upgrades (in terms of the flight deck), so that it could quickly fill in the gap between the 777-300ER and the A380, rather than coming in a bit too late.

  16. Ahmad Dan-Hamidu September 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Wow, I have to agree with you on all that (staying hot in the competition against rivals huh?). Thanks for the pointers. ;-)

  17. Casper Liew September 10, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Well and good.Where will the EFB be housed,if any?

  18. AL September 2, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    From a 744 pilot’s stand point, I like it. No more than a few days for a transition/ differences training and off we go. Obviously a cost saving for the airlines.

    Personally, I like the yokes and moving throttles because I can see what it’s doing from my peripheral.

    As far as eating in the cockpit, who would do that on a 747-8. The flight will be so long that there will always be an IRP/ IRO on board, which means that you go and eat in your nice first class seat in the back.

    Also knowing that if I had to disconnect everything, the computers won’t take take a vote to whether or not they will allow me to exceed parameters in a maneuver such as an upset recovery.