Sky Wars Continues: Boeing Launches 747-8 Aircraft

The battle between Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS for dominance of the commercial aircraft skies just got more intense. With orders from Cargolux and Nippon Cargo Airlines, Boeing this week expanded its 747 family by adding intercontinental passenger jets and freighters, dubbed 747-8, that borrow advanced technologies from Boeing's twin-jet 787 passenger aircraft that's slated to go into service in 2008.

Those technologies will "significantly increase the passenger and freight capabilities of the 747 and offer greater fuel efficiency, improved operating economics and be more friendly to the environment with reduced noise and emissions," said Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The first 747-8 freighter is scheduled for delivery to Cargolux in the third quarter of 2009; Nippon Cargo is slated to receive its first freighter in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The 747-8 passenger airplane, a stretched version of today's 747-400, will be the only jetliner in the 400-seat to 500-seat market, Boeing claims. Airbus' A380, now being flight tested, is designed to for 550 (and more) seats. Compared to the A380 freighter version, the 747-8 freighter will have 20% lower trip costs, Boeing claims.

Both the passenger and freighter versions of the four-engine 747-8 will be powered by General Electric Co. GEnx engines, which were developed for the Boeing 787.

The 747-8 is the first airplane launch for Boeing since W. James McNerney became Boeing chairman and CEO on July 1, 2005.

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