Boeing considers lengthening 747-8I

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By Andrew Doyle in London

Boeing is studying the possibility of lengthening its 747-8 Intercontinental passenger aircraft in response to requests from some airlines for additional capacity.

Interest is coming primarily from Asian carriers that are also evaluating the Airbus A380, which nominally seats 555 passengers in three classes, compared with 450 for the 747-8I, say industry sources.

Commenting on the potential for increasing the -8I’s capacity, Boeing says: “We are having detailed discussions in terms of both the aircraft and the potential business deal, with a lot of the large global operators around the world that today operate 747-400s. The specifics on the 747-8 Intercontinental will not be finalised until firm configuration is reached.”

787-8f in qinetiq windtunnel
© Flight International / Andrew Doyle 

A new series of tests has begun on a Boeing 787-8F in Qinetiq's windtunnel

The lead member of the General Electric GEnx-powered 747-8 family is the freighter version, which will be 5.6m (18.3ft) longer than the 747-400 and is scheduled to enter service in May 2009.

The -8I as currently defined will be only 3.6m longer than the -400 because it has a shorter forward fuselage plug than the -8F.

The freighter has a firm order backlog of 18 aircraft, for Cargolux (10) and Nippon Cargo Airlines (eight). Only one -8I has been ordered, by an undisclosed VIP customer believed to be the Qatar government.

Meanwhile, Boeing has begun a fresh series of low-speed aerodynamic validation tests of a scale model of its 747-8 Freighter using Qinetiq’s pressurised, 5m-diameter windtunnel in Farnborough, UK.

The tests are being run to evaluate the aircraft’s performance in its take-off and landing configurations with flaps, slats and undercarriage deployed, its stability and control characteristics and the aerodynamic loading on the structure using 1,800 pressure taps on the left side of the model.

Double-slotted inboard and single-slotted outboard trailing-edge devices have been adopted for the -8, replacing the current 747’s triple-slotted configuration.

The Farnborough tests will continue until the end of July, and Boeing plans to return in September for another two months with a revised wing loft before the design of the 747-8 is frozen.