Boeing has unveiled the largest jetliner in its history, the 747-8 Intercontinental, which it claims is significantly more fuel efficient, quieter and greener than its 747-400 predecessor.

The new jetliner was revealed to a crowd of approximately 10,000 made up of customers, government officials, media and company staff.

It was displaying a new custom red-orange "sunrise" livery designed exclusively for the type, and represents a major departure from the company's blue livery.

Boeing says the "new color palette honors many key Boeing customers whose cultures recognize these colors as symbols of prosperity and good luck," a reference to carriers in Asia, projected to be the largest market for the 747-8 and the rival Airbus A380.

Boeing 747-8I
 © Boeing

Featuring an all-new supercritical wing design with roll-axis fly-by-wire controls, a larger empennage, new avionics for precision navigation, 787-inspired interior, new General Electric GEnx-2B engines and a 5.6m (18.3ft) stretch over its predecessor the 747-400, the 747-8 Intercontinental is Boeing's next evolution in its iconic jetliner.

"We think our customers will value the low operating costs and passengers will enjoy the comfort of the striking new interior," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh.

Boeing touts the 747-8I as having 12% lower costs than the 747-400, along with 16% better fuel economy and 16% fewer carbon emissions, while demonstrating a 30% smaller noise footprint.

The 76.3m-long (250ft 3in) jumbo has a range of 14,800km (8,000nm) and a maximum takeoff weight of 442,250kg (975,000lbs).

Launched in December 2006, the 747-8 Intercontinental and Freighter are the culmination of a nearly decade-long debate about Boeing's future in the largest jet segment. Capable of accommodating 467 passengers in three classes, the -8I is Boeing's largest jetliner in its near-hundred-year history and the first production stretch of the type in its development life.

The Intercontinental marks another first for the company with a non-airline launch customer. The first 747-8I set to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011 will be handed over to a completion centre for conversion to a VIP Boeing Business Jet configuration, the first of eight the company has in its backlog.

German flag carrier Lufthansa expects to take delivery of its first of twenty 747-8Is in early 2012 with 386-seats in three classes.

"The 747-8 Intercontinental will be a great complement to our fleet, fitting nicely into the 400-seat category, improving our fleet's eco-efficiency even further," says Nico Buchholz, executive vice president, Lufthansa Group Fleet Management.

Boeing has sought to position the 747-8I in a spot just above its 365-seat 777-300ER and below the 525-seat Airbus A380.

The first 747-8I is slated to fly in the "early spring" - late March or April - and is expected to be certified in the third or fourth quarter following a 600h flight test campaign.

A total of 33 747-8I aircraft have been ordered, with Lufthansa accounting for the bulk of the backlog with 20, along with Korean Air, which holds orders for five.

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Source: Flight International