Lufthansa has taken delivery of its 14th Boeing 747-8I as the US manufacturer delivered its 1,500th 747—its first widebody aircraft in history to reach the milestone—on Saturday at Paine Field in Everett, Washington state. Boeing rolled out its first 747 on Sept. 30, 1968.
The latest aircraft is Lufthansa’s 76th 747 since it took delivery of a 747-100 in 1970. Lufthansa was the747-8I launch customer and took delivery of its first of the type in April 2012. The Frankfurt-based airline has 19 747-8Is on order.
Lufthansa Group-fleet management EVP Nico Buchholz told ATW in Seattle that Boeing will “complete delivery of the 747-8Is to Lufthansa next year when we have all 19 aircraft of the type in service.”
Lufthansa is the only airline that operates the 747-8 passenger version. China Airlines, Korean Air, Nigeria’s Arik Air and Russia’s Transaero also have orders for the type.
Boeing 747 program VP and GM Eric Lindblad told journalists on the eve of the delivery ceremony that Boeing plans to further improve the 747-8 performance.
“Today’s manufactured 747-8 has 3.5% more fuel efficiency compared to the first-delivered aircraft,” Lindblad said, which was due to engine upgrades, better aerodynamics and reduced wait times.
“We removed 9,000 pounds of weight from the aircraft; this target will extend to 10,000 pounds by the end of this year,” Lindblad said, adding that a lot of the weight reduction comes from the aircraft’s structure.
Another target is to extend the range of the aircraft from 7,800 to 8,200 nautical miles.
Lindblad said the 747-8 has a 16% fuel efficiency compared to the 747-400.
Order volume for the biggest 747 remains low. Lindblad said there are 120 firm orders; backlog remains at 50 aircraft (freighter and 8Is combined).
“We are producing 1.5 aircraft per month,” Lindblad said. “For the rest of the year and
2015, we are confident with the production.” The plan is to increase the production rate to 1.75 aircraft per month.
Buchholz said Lufthansa’s next new 747-8I destination is expected to be Vancouver.
The Frankfurt-based carrier also operates 19 747-400s, which will remain in service until 2020-2025 and will be replaced by the 777-9X. He said Lufthansa’s plans to keep the -400s in the fleet “also depend on market conditions.”