Boeing says it remains on track for first flight of its 747-8 Freighter "early in 2010" as it outlines it plans for the flight-test programme to bring the new jumbo to market by the fourth quarter of this year.
Boeing plans a 3,700h test programme for the new 747, consisting of 1,600 flight hours and 2,100 ground hours, according to Mohammad (Mo) Yahyavi, vice-president and general manager of the 747 programme.
The flight-test fleet for the 747-8F will consist of three fully instrumented aircraft - the first aircraft RC501 - along with RC521 and RC522. These are the 1,420th, 1,421st and 1,422nd 747s built.
RC501 has been on the flightline since 18 November undergoing functional tests, while RC521 left the factory on 6 January and moved to the paint hangar on 9 January. RC522 is undergoing factory completion at the second slant position on the 747 final assembly line closest to the factory doors.
The 747-8F flight-test programme will begin at Paine Field, site of the company's Everett, Washington facility, where first flight will take place. Because of the demands of the flight-test programme being run concurrently alongside the 787 programme, Boeing opted to decouple the 747 to ensure dedicated resources were available to both certification campaigns, says Yahyavi.
As a result, the 787 fleet will operate from Boeing Field, site of the company's flight-test centre, while RC501 will undergo initial airworthiness and flutter testing at Moses Lake, Washington.
Once the initial airworthiness and flutter clearance is complete, RC521 will be cleared to fly along with RC522, which will mark the transfer of the three flight-test vehicles to Palmdale, California where the remainder of the flight-test programme will be based.
Yahyavi says that the company is "ready to go as soon as we fly the airplane" and that all the resources, tools, parts and plans are in place to support certification, expected to culminate in the first delivery to Cargolux in the fourth quarter of this year.
RC521 and RC522, the second and third 747-8Fs, will be delivered to Nippon Cargo Airlines, after 521 is tasked with evaluating the fuel performance or NAMS, nautical air mile, performance, while 522 will focus on validating the environmental control, hydraulic, electric and electromagnetic interference protection systems, as well as the acoustic performance of the aircraft.
Guggenheim Aviation Partners has halved its 747-8F order, cancelling two of its four aircraft. The cancellations were reflected in Boeing's final year-end update to its order total, bringing the 747-8 backlog to 108 orders for the stretched jumbo.