747-8 Intercontinental ready for primetime
747-8 Intercontinental: Boeing's biggest plane ever is the 747-8 Intercontinental. The Chicago-based company debuted the 747-8 Intercontinental to unexpectedly slow sales.
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However, big is not yet beautiful for the Boeing order book.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite its hopes of securing a new lease of life for the 747 family, Boeing has so far managed to win 33 orders for the 747-8 passenger version including just two airlines -- Germany's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Korean Air Lines (003490.KS).
The first delivery will be to an unnamed VIP customer instead of an airline late this year, but Boeing has said it is confident of winning new orders as the plane enters service.
Pat Shanahan, Boeing's general manager of airplane programs, said he expects sales to pick up this year and was encouraged by stronger sales of the freighter version of the aircraft, speaking to reporters after the unveiling.
"This would make a great airplane for our president," Shanahan added, in the hopes that the plane will eventually replace the two older 747s currently serving as Air Force One. "We'd be happy to build one."
Lufthansa, which expects to start operating its new 747s from early 2012, is not concerned that it is one of only two airlines signed up to buy the plane, Nico Buchholz, head of Lufthansa's fleet management, said at the event.
The new 747 was not meant as a replacement for the A380s his airline already operates, Buchholz said, but would fill the gap between its mid-sized planes and the 500-plus-seater market catered for by the A380.
He did say that the A380 worked out slightly more economical on a cost-per-seat-mile basis than the new 747, assuming the planes are full.
Production of the new 747 has been delayed as the 787 Dreamliner, a carbon-composite plane which represents a bigger leap in technology than the revamped 747-8, diverts engineering time.
Boeing says the first 747-8 that the public will get to fly on will be delivered to Lufthansa in 2012.
The stronger-selling freighter version, which has already taken flight, is due to be delivered in mid-2011 -- 18 months later than first planned. Boeing has sold 74 747-8 freighters.
Both Boeing and Europe's Airbus have suffered multiple plane project delays, damaging their credibility, say many analysts.
Sales of earlier generations of the 747 far soared above the industry's initial expectations, with more than 1,400 classic jumbos sold until the 747-400 was withdrawn from sale last year.
Although the 747-8 and A380 will compete directly for years to come, analysts say airlines are mostly interested in lighter, wide-bodied planes in the 200- to 350-seat range, like the 787 and the future Airbus A350, which are designed to bypass crowded hubs and take passengers closer to their final destination.
Boeing will give an update on the delayed 787 on Monday.