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The Boeing 747-8 Freighter saved the longest for last.
Just after midnight on Tuesday, the fifth flight test airplane landed at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., to complete a 17-hour flight. The marathon mission became the last one required for certification.
"It's fantastic," said Captain Buzz Nelson, one of the Boeing test pilots who took turns at the controls. "We're glad we finished successfully. I think we have a great airplane."
Fellow pilot Captain Doug Benjamin said it was the longest flight in his career and the "airplane performed fabulously. The ride was smooth and the systems worked exactly the way we hoped they would."
"We've put this airplane through its paces. We have tested it well beyond the design limits and well beyond anything the airplane will ever see in service." Elizabeth Lund, 747-8 Vice President and General Manager
The endurance flight, designed to test the airplane's function and reliability, capped off an exhaustive certification program for the 747-8 Freighter, Boeing's largest-ever airplane.
"We've put this airplane through its paces. We have tested it well beyond the design limits and well beyond anything the airplane will ever see in service," said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager of the 747 program. "We are in the home stretch in delivering this airplane to our customers."
The 747-8 Freighter is the new high-capacity 747 that will give cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any freighter airplane while providing enhanced environmental performance. It is 18 feet and 4 inches (5.6 m) longer than the 747-400 Freighter. The stretch provides customers with 16 percent more revenue cargo volume compared to its predecessor.
"We can truly say this airplane is a joy to fly, and our customers are going to love it." Capt. Mark Feuerstein, 747-8 Chief Pilot
The first 747-8 Freighter is scheduled to be delivered to launch customer Cargolux Airlines in September after certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
As part of the flight test campaign, the 747-8 Freighter flew more than 1,200 flights totaling 3,400 hours. During that time, the five-airplane test fleet was used to gather data for more than 1,700 FAA certification requirements. Some of the tests included:
"We can truly say this airplane is a joy to fly, and our customers are going to love it. It flies like a 747, but one from the 21st century," said 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein.