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For Nathalie Theis, it was love at first sight.
"Wow, I'm impressed," said the Cargolux Airlines pilot and training instructor as she stepped into her future office: the flight deck of Boeing's newest cargo airplane, the 747-8F.
Theis smiled ear to ear as she checked out the state-of-the-art features like electronic checklist and dual electronic flight bags.
"It's amazing. It's, how should I say, it's still the queen of the skies," Theis said.
Theis and her colleagues at Cargolux Airlines recently welcomed a 747-8F test airplane into their hangar for a special visit. The Luxembourg-based airline is preparing to be the first carrier to operate the freighter later this year.
"In our specific environment, we came to the conclusion that the 747-8 is by far the best aircraft for our needs." Peter van de Pas, Sr. VP and COO, Cargolux Airlines
"It's very, very special. We've been looking forward to this moment for a few years," said Alex Wecker, vice president of maintenance engineering and fleet planning for Cargolux Airlines.
"I have to say I like the shape of the wings and I like the engines. It's a nice match I think," said Robert Bjarnason, who, at 24 years old, is the youngest pilot for Cargolux.
Marcel Funk, the vice president of flight operations, has flown 747s as long as Bjarnason has been alive. He says the new 747-8 improves on a tradition of performance and reliability.
"It's just a great machine. It's great to look at. It's great to sit in it," said Funk. "We have a great company and it is greatly due to the performance of this aircraft."
"We're very excited to be one of the first pilots to fly the 747-8. It is a chance that not everyone else has." Nathalie Theis, Cargolux Airlines pilot
Cargolux Airlines has flown every model of the airplane, using the capacity to grow into one of the world's leading cargo carriers. Now, with the larger 747-8, which can carry more containers at lower cost, Cargolux says it's well positioned to take advantage of the rebound in freight.
"The cargo business is not a high-margin business so you really need to be operating the aircraft with the latest technology," said Peter van de Pas, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Cargolux Airlines. "In our specific environment, we came to the conclusion that the -8 is by far the best aircraft for our needs."
The 747-8 Freighter is longer than its predecessor, the 747-400F, by 5.6 m (18.3 ft) and has a maximum structural payload capability of 140 metric tonnes (154 tons) with a range of 8,130 km (4,390 nmi). The 747-8 Freighter will have nearly equivalent trip costs and 16 percent lower ton-mile costs than the 747-400, plus 16 percent more revenue cargo volume than its predecessor.