The Fast Company Guide to Boeing’s Jumbo-est Jumbo, the 747-8

boeing 747-8


Late yesterday, Boeing’s 747-8 freighter prototype number three lumbered into the Spring sky above Everett’s Paine Field on its maiden flight. It then flew about successfully for two and a half hours before swooping heavily down on the tarmac at Boeing Field in Seattle. The beast checked out okay during this trip, topping out at 30,000 feet an a maximum speed of 280 mph, and is the latest success for the new marque of jumbo jet. But what exactly is exciting about this airborne monster?

  • Size matters. And this is Boeing’s biggest aircraft. Ever. At 76.264m it actually beats the other big-news jumbo jet, the European A380, by a full meter. The Wright brother’s first flight fits into its length twice over.
  • It’s the heaviest aircraft, of either commercial or military type, to be made in the U.S.A. Its maximum take-off weight of 442,000kg is equivalent to about 5,100 typical U.S. adult males, or about 6,100 European chaps.
  • What’s under the hood? The only engine used for the aircraft is the General Electric GEnx, in a special smaller variant of the version going into the 787. Its clever composite construction helps it eat 20% less fuel than competitor engines as well as running quieter.
  • Want to gain 5.6m in length? The 747-8 is made by inserting segments into the body of a 747-400, in two bands just before and behind the wings, that add 5.6m to the length. The world’s longest paper aircraft flight is 11.2 times further than this.
  • It’s the dumptruck of the sky. It can haul 140,000kg of cargo pallets into the air, and fly them non-stop some 8,100 kilometers, meaning it could fly around the entire planet in just five legs.
  • Why Austin Powers will love it: Passengers on the 747-8 Intercontinental version, which will follow the freighter into service, can expect to enjoy windows 8% larger than on current 747s, as well as an LED lighting system that can generate mood light effects. Yeah baby!
  • You (taxpayer), may soon own one! Boeing is pushing the 747-8 as a candidate for replacing the aging, super-modified 747-based VC25 Air Force One aircraft…meaning the Pres may soon be flying in the U.S.’s biggest airplane. That’s bound to impress those foreign folk. Except in Russia, where their Antonov An225 Myria cargo plane is actually 8 meters longer, and can ferry an additional 110,000kg of cargo. They do, however, only have one of them.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)


#FCFestival returns to NYC this September! Get your tickets today!