The Boeing Co. announced that U.S. and European aviation regulators have certified the operation of the company's new 747-8 freighter, allowing the aircraft—the largest freighter ever built in the United States—into commercial service for the first time after nearly two years of delays.
On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Administration granted Boeing certificates to operate the 747-8 model, which is an advanced version of the B747 aircraft that has historically been very popular in cargo configuration.
Boeing said it plans to start delivering the planes early next month, with the first going to Cargolux International Airlines, the Luxembourg-based cargo airline. Boeing has received 78 firm orders for the freighter, with Lufthansa German Airlines the largest customer with 20 firm orders placed.
The model will have four extra pallet spaces than the 747-400 freighter on the main deck, and either two additional containers and two extra pallets, or three extra pallets, on the lower deck. Chicago-based Boeing said the new model is expected to operate 16 percent cheaper on a ton-mile basis than the 747-400 freighter model, and at a slightly longer range.
The 747 model has been a popular plane for international cargo movements because of its payload and range capabilities. In recent years, operators have begun phasing out the 747-200 version—long considered a cargo workhorse—in favor of the more fuel-efficient 747-400 model.