Boeing confirms that Final Gauntlet tests are currently underway on the first 747-8F, the 1420th 747 built since the program's inception in 1966.
Designated RC501, the first 747-8F is undergoing a rigorous series of closed loop tests that will trick the new 747 into believing the aircraft is flying to test the response of the systems.
The aircraft is "flying" a standard B1 first flight profile, simulating potential failures that validate the levels of redundancy in the aircraft's systems.
Mark Feuerstein, chief 747 pilot, is on board the flight deck of RC501 for the test which began this morning and will span roughly 40hr of continuous tests, wrapping up in the morning hours of 23 January.
Feuerstein will be joined by senior test pilot Tom Imrich for the aircraft's first flight, which is expected early this year.
Following the Final Gauntlet the aircraft will spend about a week in post testing layup as it prepares for taxi tests and formal flight readiness review, as well as issuing of its experimental certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The milestone comes 40 years to the day after the first commercial service of the 747-100 with Pan American World Airways between John F. Kennedy International Airport and London Heathrow.
In an unrelated story, Boeing says that RC521 - the second 747-8F - will be re-registered after a painting error that assigned the same registration (N747EX) to both the first and second test aircraft.