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Flying on the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight With Lufthansa

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is one beautiful aircraft. Here she is seen after her first flight in DC.

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is one beautiful aircraft. Here she is seen after her first flight in DC.

It has been a long road from the conception of the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to the first passenger flight on June 1, 2012. Being based in Seattle, I have had the privilege of watching Lufthansa Airlines first 747-8I go from a few parts to a revenue-making machine. I felt beyond lucky when I was invited by Lufthansa to take part on their inaugural flight from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

It was a whirlwind trip; leaving Seattle on a non-stop flight to Frankfurt, arriving at 8am local time and about 24 hours later, leaving on the 747-8I (I will write a future story on my 24 hours in Frankfurt). Fifty-eight hours and 12,000 miles after I left, I was back home in Seattle — well worth the adventure.

A look at Lufthansa's First Class on board the Boeing 747-8I.

A look at Lufthansa's First Class on board the Boeing 747-8I.

There has been plenty of prep work by Lufthansa to train their crews on the new aircraft type. Currently, the airline has ten pilots qualified to fly the 747-8I, but soon they will have many more. Pilots trained on the 747-400 only need a three-day training course and a flight on the new plane to be qualified. Since Lufthansa just recently acquired the 747-8I, it hasn’t had many opportunities to allow pilots to fly it, but that will now change.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the delivery ceremony, so I was excited to get on board my first Intercontinental. During my 24 hour blitz in Frankfurt, there was a special unveiling event allowing me to preview the new 747 and to get access to First Class.

Lufthansa Airline's new Business Class product, which has debuted on the 747-8I.

Lufthansa Airline's new Business Class product, which has debuted on the 747-8I.

For the average passenger, he/she might not notice that the 747-8I is something new. From the outside, one might notice the raked wingtips versus the winglets of the 747-400 or the larger upper deck, but it most likely will take the trained eye of an avgeek to see the difference. Inside, there are features, like LED lighting, improved overhead bins, and a feeling of space, that have become familiar on the 787 Dreamliner and 737 with new Boeing Sky Interior.

Not only is the 747-8I a new aircraft for Lufthansa, but it also debuts the airline’s new Business Class. I had seen photos previously, but photos do not do it justice. The new product is much more spacious, cleaner and just plain (or should it be “plane”) better in person.

The new Business Class looks classy and has all the bells and whistles that high end fliers have come to expect.

The new Business Class looks classy and has all the bells and whistles that high end fliers have come to expect.

The new business seats are unique to Lufthansa and will not be found on any other airline. They are in a V-shape 2-2-2 layout with each seat having the feet angled towards each other. I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out and worried that I might have ended up playing footsies with my seat-mate. Luckily, that was not a problem.

The pair of seats in the middle of the aircraft  have an advantage over those by the windows — they have more room. With these biz seats, passengers might actually prefer the center seats, although I felt my seat had more than plenty of space.

Lufthansa has its Boeing 747-400 configured with 344 seats and its Airbus A380 with 526 seats — both in a 3-class layout. The new Intercontinental is configured with 362 seats with eight in First Class, located in the nose of the aircraft, 92 Business Class seats, with 32 on the upper deck and the remainder on the main deck, and 262 in Economy class, all found on the main deck.

Lufthansa will continue operating the 747 on more premium routes, since they have a higher percentage of premium seats versus the A380.

Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz says a few words before we depart. FYI: "Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental" in German sounds amazing.

Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz says a few words before we depart. FYI: "Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental" in German sounds amazing.

Before departure, there was a ceremony at the gate’s Business/First Class lounge with executives of both Lufthansa and Boeing present. After a glass of champagne and some applause, it was time to board the sparkling 747-8 Intercontinental.

Even though I was on the same plane a day earlier, the energy is entirely different when you are just checking out the interior, versus when you are able ready to take flight. “Epic” and “giddy” would probably be appropriate words to describe it.

Time to load up. Lufthansa has gate lounges where folks in premium cabins can board directly from the lounge. Keep it classy people!

Time to load up. Lufthansa has gate lounges where folks in premium cabins can board directly from the lounge. Keep it classy people!

I had seat 10K — a window seat in Business Class, located on the main deck. I quickly got settled in and was ready to start on an historical journey.

This inaugural flight was unique since there were only 75 invited guests and media and the rest were paying passengers. Most airlines won’t have “normal” passengers on inaugural flights, so it was great seeing all the people (some who had no idea) enjoying the experience.

And we have lift off!

And we have lift off!

How was the flight? Amazing, unforgettable, awesome (insert your positive adjective here). The Intercontinental is not only a beautiful aircraft, but one that flies very well. During take-off, it was music to the ears hearing the four GEnx engines spool up. The large aircraft used a good chunk of the runway before lifting off and once airborne, the aircraft was quiet and allowed you to easily talk to the person next to you.

I was seated right in front of the right wing, which provided great views. I could easily witness the wings flex up, similar to the 787, but not quiet as dramatic. I was actually happy when we hit a pocket of turbulence, because I was able to watch the engines and wings do their dance.

It might take some training of the flight attendants to reassure worried passengers that the wings are supposed to do that.

The upper deck of Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

The upper deck of Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

Moving a few times from the main deck to the upper deck, I  noticed that up top was a bit louder due to wind noise. It is not enough that a passenger would choose the main deck, but enough that it could be observed.

I know many of you are wondering; how does the Airbus A380 compare to the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental? Well, it is not an easy comparison to make. I haven’t flown on an A380 in a while and without back-to-back flights, it is hard to award an overall winner.

In a beauty contest, hands down, the 747-8 takes the crown. The A380 is a cool looking machine that functions well, but it doesn’t have the grace (nor history) that the 747 has. In the noise department, I think the A380 probably wins out.

The A380 and 747-8I are both great aircraft with their own benefits, but have different missions. Really, with how Lufthansa configures their aircraft, the Airbus A340-600 probably competes more directly with the new Intercontinental than the A380 does.

Down we go! it might not be the spiral stair case of the historical 747's, but it does the job.

Down we go! it might not be the spiral stair case of the historical 747's, but it does the job.

During the flight, I had ample opportunity to put the new Business Class to the test. It is a huge improvement over the old product — which isn’t too shabby, but it is starting to show its age.

Each person is given plenty of room, a larger screen and a lie-flat seat. There are additional nooks to store things, an easier to use in-flight entertainment system and one of my favorite things that probably will go unnoticed:  the ability to put down your arm rest to have more room sitting or sleeping.

The in-flight entertainment system will be familiar to frequent Lufthansa flyers, but it is much crisper and quicker. There are additional viewing choices, but I would still like to see more. I am able to forgive the lack of choice, since the IFE offers a camera view looking forward and down from the front of the aircraft.

The center arm rest holds your head phones, remote, tray table, but you have to make sure your arm doesn't hit those buttons.

The center arm rest holds your head phones, remote, tray table, but you have to make sure your arm doesn't hit those buttons.

For me, the biggest drawback with the new Lufthansa Business Class is the placement of the seat controls. They have been moved from the remote to a prominent location on the front of the arm rest. On more than one occasion my arm would accidentally hit one of the buttons and my seat would start to unexpectedly move. Asking others who also made the flight, they didn’t seem to have the same issue, so maybe it was just me (and my muscular arms getting in the way — okay probably not).

I was planning on staying awake the entire flight to absorb the entire experience, but after a few celebatory cocktails and my lack of sleep kicking in, I crashed for about one and a half hours. Since the sleep caught me off guard, I did not put the seat in the lie-flat position, but I rested comfortably without waking up in the half-way position. I have to say that the new pillow and blanket are a positive improvement and it is sometimes the little things that count the most.

It is rare to get two water canon salutes, but FRA gave us one leaving and this is IAD's one to us when we arrived.

It is rare to get two water cannon salutes, but FRA gave us one leaving and this is IAD's one to us when we arrived.

When we started our descent, I wasn’t ready for the flight to end. The touch down was smooth and our welcome was warm. We had a water cannon salute at the gate and a group of media, guests and employees taking photos from the tarmac. We were escorted through customs and brought to an arrival party at the main terminal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay long, since I had to be off on my flight back to Seattle.

This 747-8I inaugural flight was much more than just a flight. It represents all the hard work (and patience) of all the people who worked so diligently to make it possible. I know that it sounds cliche, but I think this aircraft has been well worth the wait.

Lufthansa is planning on taking delivery of four more Intercontinentals before the end of the year and Boeing has stated on the flight there are other airlines (even ones in the US) that are showing interest in the 747-8.

The photo doesn't do a great job showing the wing curve -- you will just have to go see it for yourself.

The photo doesn't do a great job showing the wing curve -- you will just have to go see it for yourself.

I am happy to celebrate the new Queen of the Skies initiation into revenue service. It starts with only one flight and one airline, but it won’t be long before millions are hopefully able to enjoy the benefits of the historical and new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

SEE ALL 51 PHOTOS FROM THE LUFTHANSA BOEING 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL INAUGURAL FLIGHT

Learn, Read, See More on the Flight:
* Photos on AirChive.com
* Video, photos and story on Jaunted.com
* Story on Wi-Fi on Lufthansa’s 747-8I via APEX blog
* Shots of us landing at IAD from @RacingWinds

Heading to Germany with Lufthansa for the Inaugural Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Flight

I recently received an invite to head to Germany for about 24 hours before turning around and taking the first passenger flight on-board the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. How could I refuse?

I will be leaving Seattle (SEA) on a Lufthansa Airbus A330 non-stop to Frankfurt (FRA) before grabbing a seat on the inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Washington DC (IAD) on flight LH416. You better believe I will be sharing this experience as much as I can. Follow on Twitter and of course on the blog.

This is exciting for a number of different reasons. One of which is I have already taken a ride on one of Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s and I look forward to comparing that experience to the Intercontinental flight. It won’t be that easy, since the 747-8I is debuting Lufthansa’s new business class product, where the A380 I flew had their older product.

If you have the means (and an open calendar), I just checked this morning and there are still a few tickets left to make the inaugural flight yourself. You also have the chance to win two tickets on a future 747-8I flight on Lufthansa via their Intercontinental mini-site. Be careful though. That mini-site will make you easily burn some time with the 3D 747-8I tour, videos and more.

Lufthansa Airlines Takes Delivery of Their First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8I, taken from the Future of Flight's new flightline room. Photo by Sandy Ward / Future of Flight.

Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8I (D-ABYA), taken from the Future of Flight's new flightline room. Photo by Sandy Ward / Future of Flight.

Today, Lufthansa Airlines took physical delivery of their first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. Although the first 7478I was delivered back in February to the government of Qatar, this is the first Intercontinental to be delivered to an airline.

Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8I taxiing next to the Future of Flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive.com.

Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8I taxiing next to the Future of Flight. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive.com.

“We are excited and thrilled to welcome the 747-8 Intercontinental to our fleet,” said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa German Airlines. “Our passengers will love the new interior, which includes our all-new full-flat business-class cabin.”

Lufthansa 747-8I (D-ABYA) takes off from Paine Field. Click for larger. Image from Boeing.

Lufthansa 747-8I (D-ABYA) takes off from Paine Field. Click for larger. Image from Boeing.

Lufthansa’s 747-8I will begin its first revenue flight on June 1st from Frankfurt to Washington, DC. The airline has 20 of the Intercontinentals on order and are expecting to take delivery of five more by the end of the year.


Video taken by PlaneInsight
Officially, the aircraft was delivered by Boeing on April 25th. Between the official delivery date and fly-off earlier today, the airline conducted airline-specific preparations before heading to Frankfurt, where it will be greeted with another celebration.

The First Class section in the nose of the Boeing 747-8I for Lufthansa. Click for larger. Photo by Boeing.

The First Class section in the nose of the Boeing 747-8I for Lufthansa. Click for larger. Photo by Boeing.

“We are very proud and pleased that Lufthansa is the airline launch customer for the 747-8 Intercontinental,” said Boeing’s Pat Shanahan, senior vice president, Airplane Programs, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Lufthansa has been a trusted partner for many years and has contributed greatly to making the 747 a truly beloved airplane around the world. We are excited for Lufthansa’s passengers to experience the incredible new Intercontinental — it is truly a Queen of the Skies for the 21st Century.”

Lufthansa's new Business Class seat on the Boeing 747-8I. Click for larger. Photo from Lufthansa.

Lufthansa's new Business Class seat on the Boeing 747-8I. Click for larger. Photo from Lufthansa.

Lufthansa will operate the 747-8I with a configuration of 362 seats (8 First Class, 92 Business Class and 262 Economy Class). The aircraft also debuted Lufthansa’s new Business Class product, which is in a “V” arrangement, where the seats fold flat.

A huge thanks for Chris Sloan (aka @AirChive and AirChive.com – seriously check out that site and his photos from today) for being so on top of covering this event via Twitter today. 

MORE ON LUFTHANSA’S FIRST BOEING 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL
(will be adding more as they become available)
* 200 Photos of today’s event from Chris Sloan
* Delivery day photos from the Seattle PI
* Photos from Boeing’s Randy Tinseth
* Previous photos/video from Lufthansa
* 747-8I Microsite

BLOG LITE: On the road to Portland and Dubai + Lufthansa 747-8I Rumors

Portland Airport (via the Port of Portland), Emirates Boeing 777 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I (via Jeremy Dwyer-Lindren)

Portland Airport (via the Port of Portland), Emirates Boeing 777 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I (via Jeremy Dwyer-Lindren)

This last week and a half has been super busy already for me and it is only going to get a bit crazier (in a good way) for the next week.

I am off to Portland to give a talk on tourism and technology at the GWTTRA Conference. Very excited to share the concept that technology has really improved the experience and I think ushered a new Golden Age of flight. If you have any ideas on tourism, travel, airlines and technology, please share them in the comments and I might be able to add it to my presentation.

Then heading all the way around the world with Emirates on their new non-stop flight from Seattle to Dubai. I am excited to check out Emirates service on their Boeing 777-200LR, as well as seeing what Dubai has to offer.

I will be keeping up on Twitter and Facebook on my aviation themed adventures as always, so please join along.

While on the road, I will be making use of guest blogs and hopefully be able to remotely cover the delivery of Lufthansa’s first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, which is rumored to be delivered around the 24th of this month (nothing official has been announced from Lufthansa or Boeing).

Photos and Info: Boeing Delivers Their First 747-8 Intercontinental

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to be delivered (A7-HHE) lines up on 16R at Paine Field.

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to be delivered (A7-HHE) lines up on 16R at Paine Field.

Yesterday, Boeing delivered their first 747-8 Intercontinental. Although we know that the customer is the government of Qatar, Boeing was tight-lipped about who the customer might be.

Other than the registration number and information from reliable sources, there has been no official confirmation from either Boeing or the government of Qatar. Boeing stated that they are following the wishes of their customer and not publicly confirming or denying if it is the government of Qatar.

Boeing Executives answer questions about the Boeing 747-8I program before take off.

Boeing Executives answer questions about the Boeing 747-8I program before take off.

Before the delivery flight, Boeing held a press conference to answer questions about the 747-8 program. Present were Bruce Dickinson, VP and Chief Project Engineer, 747-8 Program, Elizabeth Lund, Vice President, 747 Program, Captain Steve Taylor, President of Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) and Jim Proulx, Boeing 747 Communications.

When asked if the Intercontinental might participate in a world tour, like the 787 Dreamliner, Lund explained that they are in discussion about the possibly and would prefer to work with an airline customer, like Lufthansa.

How would you like a bed in the nose of a Boeing 747-8I?

How would you like a bed in the nose of a Boeing 747-8I? Photo showing potential 747-8I BBJ interior from Boeing.

Currently there are nine 747-8 VIPs on order and Taylor stated that it is safe to say that all of them are going to government customers.

One government customer who does not have a 747-8I on order yet is the President of the United States. Lund stated that Boeing has spoken to the president and assured him that Boeing is more than ready to build the next Air Force One.

You have to love the extended upper deck of the 747-8 Intercontinental.

You have to love the extended upper deck of the 747-8 Intercontinental.

The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental that will go into commercial service with Lufthansa is still going through its final testing phase, which should be completed in the next week. Since the passenger version has things like seats, in-flight entertainment and more, it needs the additional time before being ready for delivery.

Lund stated that Boeing is working to get an official delivery date for the aircraft to Lufthansa and they hope to announce that date in the next few weeks. Previously, they have stated that they hope to deliver the first passenger Intercontinental in March of this year.

This is a mock up of a possible interior of a Boeing Business Jet 747-8I. The one delivered yesterday was empty. Photo by Boeing.

This is a mock up of a possible interior of a Boeing Business Jet 747-8I. The one delivered yesterday was empty. Photo by Boeing.

Near the end of the press conference, BBJ President Steven Taylor had to politely leave, since not only does he oversee the BBJ program, but he is also a pilot, that is rated to fly the 747-8I and he was going to be flying during the delivery flight. How cool is that?

After the press conference, it was time to head to the Future of Flight’s strato deck to wait for the the 747-8I to take off. Luckily it was not raining, but it was windy and very cold. Unfortunately, the aircraft was late taking off, so by the time she taxied out and lined up, my hands were having a hard time taking photos due to frozen fingers.

It was disappointing that we were not able to tour the interior of the aircraft and it was also not parked next to the Future of Flight where we could get better photos from the tarmac. But it is still not a bad thing to gather with aviation media to watch the first 747-8I to be delivered.

And lift off. The Boeing 747-8I heads off to Vancouver.

And lift off. The Boeing 747-8I heads off to Vancouver.

At about 1:01pm, the 747-8I lifted off from Paine Field, with cheers from the Boeing and media folks that gathered to watch.

First, the 747-8I flew to Vancouver for a few hours to complete customs paperwork before heading to Wichita, Kansas to begin its two year interior installation. There, the Aeroloft, which is a sleeping berth in the rear of the aircraft, will be installed before heading to Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, Germany for the rest of the interior installation.

Once completed in 2014, the aircraft will be able to carry 100 passengers in style, up to 8,840 nautical miles.

CHECK OUT MORE ON THE FIRST BOEING 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL DELIVERY:
* 29 additional photos of the event
* Check out additional photos (from a different angle) by NYCAviation.com