Final Gauntlet tests are currently underway on the first Boeing 747-8F, marking another step forward toward the aircraft's maiden sortie, the airframer confirms.

Designated RC501, the first 747-8F is undergoing a rigorous series of closed loop tests that will trick the new 747's systems into believing the aircraft is flying, and then testing the responses.

The aircraft will be "flying" a standard B1 first flight profile, simulating potential failures that confirm the effectiveness of the built-in design redundancy of the aircraft's systems.

Mark Feuerstein, 747 chief pilot, is on board the flight deck of RC501 for the tests that began on 21 January at the company's Everett, Washington facility. The continuous testing will last for 40h, and conclude on 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 an experimental airworthiness certificate by the US FAA.

Boeing holds orders for 108 747-8 aircraft, split between 76 freighters and 32 passenger aircraft. First delivery of the 747-8F is planned for the fourth quarter of 2010 to Luxembourg-based Cargolux.

The milestone comes 40 years to the day after the first commercial service of the 747-100 with Pan American World Airways between New York City and London.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news