EVERETT, Wash. -- The year 2013 has not been a good one in the jumbo jet business for Boeing or Airbus.
Boeing saw five cancellations for its upgraded version of the 747, the 747-8. But it also saw five firm new orders for an official net gain of zero. But Boeing points out that it has 11 commitments from Korean Airlines and Air China, along with an unannounced customer that has never operated 747s before, all for the passenger version known as the Intercontinental.
Airbus reports no new orders and three cancellations, but over time has received well over 200 orders for its giant fully double-decked A380 that typically seats 525 passengers in a three class configuration to 467 in the lengthened 747-8i.
So why is Boeing hopeful that more orders will come? Part of the reason is that the first customer for the 747-8 passenger liner is reporting good results now that it's been flying a small fleet of the planes for a year. In fact, executives with Germany's Lufthansa were willing to do a video testimonial for Boeing that's on Boeing's website.
In it, one of Europe's top airlines, also considered by Airbus to be its best customer, touts the fuel economy, passenger amenities and cooperative working relationship in dramatically upgrading the long running 747 that first went into service in 1970. Lufthansa operates A380s as well as the new 747.
"Based on the testimonials of our launch customer, that's really going to give us a lot of traction in the market place," said Bruce Dickinson, Boeing's Chief Project Engineer for the 747-8.
But the story doesn't end there. Another 747-8i has logged 300 hours in flight testing as part of a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) and is nearing certification. The PIP program is designed to two things. One includes an upgrade to its General Electric engines boosting fuel economy additional two percent. Engines with the improvements are already arriving at the 747 flight line in Everett and existing 747-8 engines can also be upgraded. The second upgrade is to put the plane's so-called "wet tail" to use. The horizontal stabilizers hold additional fuel which Boeing says will increase range to 8,000 nautical miles. The freighter version of the 747-8 does not offer a wet tail option.