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Feature Story

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Boeing/Eric Olson

In front of some 10,000 employees and guests, Boeing unveiled the 747-8 Intercontinental, the biggest and most fuel-efficient passenger jet in company history.

Video: New Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental unveiled

With dramatic violin music building to a crescendo over the drumbeat of 10,000 people clapping with thunder sticks, the giant curtain came down to reveal the dawn of a new era for the Boeing 747.

Jack Terrell

Boeing/Gail Hanusa

The iconic shape of the original Boeing 747 inspires the new 747-8 Intercontinental but the two are very different airplanes. The Intercontinental sports a new advanced wing, new fuel-efficient engines from General Electric and a suite of new technologies.

"This is awesome. It's wow, just wow," Boeing tech designer Raymond Bechard said in awe as he stood next to the new 747-8 Intercontinental.

For its world debut Sunday, the airplane was painted in a new "Sunrise" livery with stunning reds and oranges that shined inside Boeing's factory in Everett, Wash.

"It's just beautiful. The paint job is phenomenal," said Ryan Van Drunen, a Boeing engineer who worked on designs for the new jetliner. "It represents that we're doing something new. It's not just the 747 that we're used to. It's completely different, we're revolutionizing things."

"This airplane will carry more people, more cargo, further, faster, more economically than any airplane in its class." Elizabeth Lund, 747 Vice President and Deputy Program Manager

At 250 ft (76 m) long, with a wingspan of 224 ft (68.5 m), the 747-8 Intercontinental is the largest passenger airplane Boeing has ever built and can seat 467 passengers in a 3-class configuration.

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Boeing/Bernard Choi

With its world debut complete, the new 747-8 Intercontinental rolls out of the factory in Everett, Wash.

The jetliner retains the shape of the iconic Boeing 747 that first revolutionized air travel 40 years ago, but that's where the similarities end.

"You're looking at a new wing, a new body, new engines and when you look inside, you'll see an all-new interior," said Pat Shanahan, Airplane Programs Vice President and General Manager for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"The new 747-8 Intercontinental features the latest in innovative technologies -applying many of the breakthroughs also found on the 787 Dreamliner," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Albaugh. "We think our customers will value the low operating costs and passengers will enjoy the comfort of the striking new interior."

"I'm a little part of this big airplane. It's just so amazing to see it all come together and this is what we do." Lynda Sutton, Boeing Fabrication Specialist.

The advances in technology will help the 747-8 deliver 16 percent better fuel economy, 16 percent less carbon emissions and a 30-percent smaller noise footprint than its predecessor.

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Boeing/Bernard Choi

The new 747-8 Intercontinental heads toward the flight line to begin a series of tests in advance of its maiden flight in early spring.

"This airplane will carry more people, more cargo, further, faster, more economically than any airplane in its class," said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and deputy program manager for the 747 Program.

It's because of those attributes that Germany's Lufthansa signed up be the launch customer for the Intercontinental.

"The 747-8 Intercontinental will be a great complement to our fleet, fitting nicely into the 400-seat category, improving our fleet's eco-efficiency even further," said Nico Buchholz, executive vice president, Lufthansa Group Fleet Management. "As launch customer, we are looking forward to welcoming this new aircraft to our fleet next year as it adds to our ongoing fleet modernization and environmental efforts."

To see the airplane unveiling and hear more from the guest speakers, watch a replay of the premiere event.

With its world debut complete, the 747-8 Intercontinental rolled out of the factory and headed for the flight line where it will undergo a series of tests in preparation for its maiden flight, which is expected in early spring.