EVERETT, Wash. -- You could say it's all about the percentages. Boeing is squeezing another 1.8 percent more fuel efficiency out of the 747-8 airplane.
The 747-8 is the newest and highest technology version of the venerable 747 which made its first flight in 1969.
This week, the company began a months long series of certification test flights to boost the efficiency of its General Electric GEnx-2B engines with enhanced modifications to get to that higher number. For airlines, fuel efficiency is all about money saved, and that seemingly small number adds up to a million dollars saved per airplane per year according to Boeing.
But this test flight program, called the Performance Improvement Package or PIP, is just the latest squeeze to get every drop out of a gallon of jet fuel.
Boeing's 747 program says the popular 747-400 burned 18 percent less per airplane than the 747-200 that preceded it.
The 747-8 Intercontinental passenger plane has 467 seats in a three class configuration and is nearly 20 feet longer. It already burns 16 percent less than the 747-400. The 1.8 percent will be in addition to that.
"The flight test is to verify that we'll hit the 1.8 percent or better," said Jeannette Croppi, the PIP test program manager.
But the test flights don't end with engine performance. The program will also begin to employ the 747-8 Intercontinental's so called "wet tail."
The horizontal stabilizers contain fuel tanks holding another 3,300 gallons of jet fuel, and should bring the range of the 747 passenger plane to 7,790 nautical miles, easily putting most of the world's cities within non-stop range of Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport.
747-8 Intercontinentals, including more than a half dozen in service with Lufthansa German Airlines, already have the extra fuel tanks built in. Those tanks will be activated and the current GEnx engines upgraded upon successful completion of the tests.