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Boeing hails taxi run ahead of 747-8I first flight

Boeing's largest airliner has cleared high-speed taxi tests at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, setting the stage for first flight of the 747-8 Intercontinental on 20 March.

The nose gear briefly lifted off the runway as the widebody with the distinctive red-and-white livery hit a top speed of 90kt (167km/h).

Boeing is still analyzing results of the taxi test, but is "confident" the aircraft is ready for first flight, says Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager of the 747 programme.

The passenger version of the 747-8 family is entering flight tests 13 months after the 747-8 Freighter achieved first flight on 8 February 2010.

Both variants extend the length of the 747-400 by 5.6m (18.3ft), allowing the new passenger model to accommodate 51 more seats and 26% more cargo.

Deliveries for the 747-8I begin later this year or early next year, and the first 747-8F is scheduled to be handed over in mid-2011.

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