Boeing structural supplier Vought Aircraft Industries has begun sub-assembly production on the airframer's first 747-8I.

The Dallas-based supplier has begun manufacturing floor beams and frames for Boeing's new passenger jumbo.

Vought is responsible for fabrication for a majority of the aircraft's fuselage - sections 42 through 48 - as well as tail and empennage sub-assemblies.

Final assembly of the first 747-8I, dubbed RC001, is expected to begin around May and will eventually be delivered to a Boeing Business Jet customer following flight test and refurbishment.

The second 747-8I that will support the flight test programme along with RC001 will eventually be delivered to Lufthansa.

While Boeing does not disclose its Boeing Business Jet customers, the first production 747-8I - the third built - is widely believed to be destined for a Middle Eastern head of state.

Featuring a length of 250ft 8in (76.4m), the 747-8I is 5.6m longer than its 747-400 predecessor and has a range of 14,800km (8,000nm). Its seating capacity is 467 in a three-class configuration.

Boeing holds orders for 32 747-8I aircraft including, 20 for Lufthansa, five for Korean Air and seven for BBJ customers.

First flight of RC001 is scheduled for early next year followed by first delivery to a BBJ customer in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news