Boeing looks to 20 March for 747-8I first flight

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A day after Boeing's first 747-8 Intercontinental successfully completed its first engine run, company sources indicate the aircraft's maiden sortie is honing in on 20 March.

Boeing declined to confirm the 20 March target, but company sources say the first engine start came two days ahead of schedule, indicating a quickening pace toward its first flight.

On 8 March Boeing performed approximately 2h 45min of engine runs on the aircraft's four General Electric GEnx-2B engines.

Using pneumatic bleed air from the aircraft's aircraft Pratt & Whitney Canada auxiliary power unit, RC001 started the first of its four engines at 11:57 local time, followed by the remaining three using the aircraft's cross-bleed function.

The test was intended "to check out all the computing systems, the backup systems, pneumatics, electric systems," says Jim Peterson, 747-8 propulsion test director, in a Boeing-released video on the engine start.

The each engine is rated at 296kN (66,500lbs) thrust, and is a derivative of the GEnx-1B originally designed for the 787's non-pneumatic electric start system.

Still left for the jet is additional functional testing followed by the flight line gauntlet, which will put the aircraft's systems through a closed-loop simulation, followed by low and high speed taxi tests.

Boeing plans an approximately 600h flight test campaign with two aircraft set to wrap up late in the third quarter or early fourth, with a year-end certification, followed by handover of the first aircraft - a Boeing Business Jet - to a completion centre for conversion to VIP configuration for the Government of Kuwait.

The first airline operator, Lufthansa, is expected to take its first 747-8I in early 2012 in a 386-seat configuration.