Boeing is set to debut the new 747-8 on February 13, ahead of its first commercial flights in late 2011 or early 2012.
Officially dubbed the 747-8 Intercontinental, the next-gen Jumbo is a seriously stretched version of the familiar 747-400. At 250 foot (76 metre) from tip to tail it's the longest passenger aircraft in the world, and can seat 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration, up from 416 in the 747-400. A single-class 'sardine mode' layout could pack in 581 passengers, but we hope never to see (and certainly never ever to travel in) such a machine.
As you'd expect the new airliner is quieter, more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly than the 747-400. The revamped interior borrows its design DNA from the much-delayed 787 Dreamliner and the 'Next Generation' Boeing 737NG.
This includes includes a more spacious main passenger entrance with a curved stairway to the upper deck; brighter and customisable LED 'mood' lighting (in place of fluorescent tubes that frequently need replacing), gently sculpted sidewalls and larger oval window surrounds to let in more light.
The overhead bins boast greater capacity than on the 747, but use a pivoting hinge so they take up less cabin space. The overall effect is a cabin that’s lighter and brighter, as well as looking ‘softer’ and more spacious.
For all that, uptake on the 747-8 has been much softer than Boeing would wish. Most airlines opted for the Airbus A380, which had the advantage of being in the showroom while the Intercontinental was still on the drawing board.
To date only Lufthansa and Korean Air have signed on the dotted line wih 25 Intercontinentals between them, although Boeing has sold more than twice as many of the cargo-carrying 747-8 Freighter version, including 10 to Cathay Pacific.
A heavily-modified 747-8 is also being considered by the US Air Force as the new Air Force One, replacing the President's 21 year old 747-200 ride.