747-8 freighter approved

Boeing's 747-8 Freighter has received federal certification, paving the way for Boeing to deliver the first plane to Cargolux in early September.

The 747-8 is a stretched version of Boeing's 747-400, with a longer fuselage, redesigned wings and improved efficiencies.

Boeing is building two versions of the 747-8 — a cargo version and an intercontinental passenger version.

It's the fourth generation of Boeing's widebody 747 and the largest.

The new freighter variant will give operators 16 percent more cargo room than the previous version, Boeing said.

Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita builds the nose section, nacelles and struts for the airplane.

The 747-8 Freighter has logged more than 3,400 hours of flight testing and many more hours of ground testing and component testing on the way to certification, the company said.

"Certification is the culmination of literally tens of thousands of hours of work," Todd Zarfos, vice president for engineering for the 747 program, said on a conference call Friday morning.

The plane has been delayed multiple times as Boeing struggled with a variety of challenges.

Boeing has taken 114 orders for the freighter and 56 orders for an intercontinental passenger version of the plane.

Boeing's market outlook forecasts demand for about 820 planes in the 400-plus-seat category over the next 20 years.

"We expect 250 of those to be freighters," Zarfos said.

Boeing plans to deliver between 25 and 30 747-8s and 787 Dreamliners this year, "slightly weighted to the 47," he said. Zarfos declined to specify how many of each plane the company expects to be delivered.

The Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency — Europe's FAA equivalent — granted Boeing Amended Type Certificates for the 747-8 Freighter, certifying the design is compliant with aviation regulatory requirements and will produce a safe and reliable airplane.

The FAA also granted Boeing an Amended Production Certificate, which validates Boeing's 747 production system can produce the airplane that will conform to the airplane's design. The EASA accepts the FAA's oversight in that area.

The 747-8 Freighter is 250 feet long, which is 18 feet longer than the 747-400 Freighter. It will have four additional main-deck pallets and three additional lower-hold pallets.

Flight testing is progressing for the 747-8 Intercontinental airplane, Zarfos said.

The first 747-8I is scheduled for delivery to an unidentified VIP customer later this year. Lufthansa is Boeing's first airline customer for the plane.