(Reuters): Boeing Co's 747-8 Intercontinental, the new elongated passenger version of its legendary jumbo jet, made its international debut LAST WEEK showing its distinctive silhouette abroad for the first time.
The high-profile landing of Boeing's new 747 at the Paris Air Show -- three months after its first flight -- marks a show of engineering strength by the world's second-largest plane maker in a competition for control of the wide-body market.
"We've seen a great deal of interest in the last six to eight months as the market has gotten better," Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing at Boeing's commercial division, told Reuters.
In Boeing's standard layout, the new 747-8 will have 467 seats, 51 more than its predecessor, but fewer than the 525 of its main competitor, the A380 made by EADS unit Airbus. The actual seat number, however, will be determined by the airlines.
Boeing has taken 33 orders for the 747-8 Intercontinental, which will be joined in Paris on Monday by the better-selling freighter version of the plane, which has received 76 orders..
The new 747-8 -- in red and orange livery to symbolize the importance of the fast-growing Asian aircraft market -- flew to Paris without passengers but was stuffed with computers, test equipment and barrels of water to simulate passenger weight and to test balance.
The Paris Air Show is the venue of choice for aerospace and defense companies to strut their stuff, to the delight of aviation enthusiasts around the world.
The new 747-8 is more than 18 feet longer than its predecessor, with the added length mainly noticeable by the extended hump. The upper deck in the hump traditionally houses the business class section.
Plane spotters looking for other differences with the 747 will notice the jagged, clam-shell look of the 747-8's engine casing, which reduces noise. The 747-8 also lacks the upwards-curving winglets at the wingtip, but has raked wings that sweep slightly upwards. Boeing says the raked wings reduce wind resistance and enhance fuel efficiency.
The plane also features bigger windows and some design elements of the new 787 Dreamliner, such as interior lighting that changes colors to help passengers adjust more easily to time changes as the plane crosses time zones.
The first 747 made its maiden flight 42 years ago. Since then, the jumbo jet, with its distinctive hump, has become the world's most recognizable plane.
The 747 was the world's largest airplane until 2005, when Airbus unveiled its A380. The 747-8 Intercontinental, however, is more than 10 percent lighter per seat than the Airbus A380 and consumes 11 percent less fuel, Boeing says.
The Intercontinental lists at $317.5 million. Germany's Lufthansa has ordered 20 of the planes, and is set to be the first airline to bring the new jumbo into service early next year. Boeing says a VIP customer will take first delivery of an Intercontinental in the fourth quarter of this year.
Production of the 747-8 has been delayed, as has the mid-sized 787 Dreamliner, a carbon-composite plane, which represents a bigger leap in technology than the revamped 747-8.
Although the 747-8 and A380 will compete directly for years to come, analysts say airlines are mostly interested in lighter, wide-bodied planes in the 200- to 350-seat range, like the 787 and the future Airbus A350, which are designed to bypass crowded hubs and take passengers closer to their final destination.