Boeing delivers first 747-8I

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Boeing has delivered the first 747-8 Intercontinental, which departed the company's Everett, Washington facility today enroute to Vancouver, Canada.

It is the first 747 passenger variant handed over since 2005.

The aircraft, dubbed RC002, the 1,439th 747 built since 1968, departed Paine Field at 13:01 local time to Vancouver to clear customs.

Captain Steve Taylor, who serves as president of Boeing Business Jets, was at the controls for the departure to Vancouver under a non-public flight plan. The aircraft will then be ferried to Boeing's Wichita, Kansas Global Transport & Executive Systems (GTES) facility for installation of the Greenpoint Technologies Aeroloft cabin.

The Aeroloft grows the 747-8's cabin area to 444.6sq m (4,786sq ft) with eight individual berths positioned in the upper crown area in the aft part of the aircraft's cabin between the empennage and the iconic hump.

Following the Aeroloft installation, the aircraft will travel to Hamburg, Germany for completion at Lufthansa Technik, wrapping up an approximately 24-month conversion process before entering service with its unidentified customer.

Boeing would not identify the VIP customer for its first 747-8, though the aircraft wears a Qatari A7-HHE registration, and is believed to be for Qatar's Amiri Flight.

To date, seven customers have ordered nine 747-8 VIP aircraft, eight of which will be delivered for completion in 2012.

The first of 20 747-8s outfitted for Lufthansa, the airline launch customer, is expected to be handed over in March. However, Boeing has not yet publicly identified an official delivery date for the German carrier.

Boeing expects to deliver between 35 and 42 747-8s and 747-8 Freighters, respectively, in 2012.

747-8 vice president and general manager Elizabeth Lund said production for the 747-8 passenger and freighter variants will accelerate to two aircraft per month from 1.5.

Lund said the fuselage and wing build-up areas are already running at the higher rate and final body join will advance in the middle of the year.