|by Jason Steele|
Weather permitting, Boeing will attempt the first flight of its awesome new 747 this Sunday, March 20th. You can watch the first flight live via the Internet on or about 10:00 AM Pacific time.
What A First Flight Is Like
Being the aviation geek that I am, I tuned in for the first flights of the 787 and the freighter version of the new 747. The flight will take place at Paine Field airport in Everett Washington, site of Boeing’s wide body assembly plant. Expect really good overhead shots from news cameras. There will also be chase planes in the form of pair of antique jet fighters that Boeing owns.
If you are tuning in with the morbid hope to witness an unexpected disaster, you will be disappointed. While there are many risks in the flight testing program, first flights have an extremely good safety record. Expect the Boeing test pilots to take the airplane up and conduct a very conservative set of maneuvers in order to validate predicted performance.
Outlook For The New 747
The reason to tune in is not the potential for disaster, but to share in the glory of flight. This aircraft is longest commercial passenger airplane ever built, and it is the biggest one yet from Boeing. Yes, Airbus’s A380 is larger, but it has been a financial flop for the company. Years behind schedule, they are still having trouble meeting production goals. As a result, sales have been lackluster and most industry analysts doubt they the aircraft will ever be produced in quantities large enough to turn a profit.
In contrast, the passenger version of new 747 has sold even worse, but it is the freighter version that will guarantee Boeing a profit from this program for decades. Airbus could not sell a freighter version of its A380, leaving the entire large freighter market to Boeing. With freighters, bigger is generally better. Cargo doesn’t mind taking longer to load and unload, and companies simply want to deliver the goods for the lowest price per pound. In fact, the iconic hump of the 747’s was designed to accommodate cargo loaded through the nose of the aircraft. This is the only aircraft that was specifically designed to carry cargo from the beginning.
So if you love travel and aviation, be sure to tune in for a landmark broadcast. You can tell future generations that you “witnessed” the first flight of of the new Queen Of The Skies.