The Boeing 747-8 will achieve its pre-delivery guarantees on fuel burn “in a year or two,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh told attendees at the company’s May 15 Investors’ Conference in St. Louis. The estimate comes after Lufthansa Airlines—the airline launch customer for the 747-8 Intercontinental—revealed that it might revise its delivery schedule for some of the 20 airplanes it ordered if Boeing does not soon deliver on its promises. So far Lufthansa has taken delivery of one of the airplanes, whose well documented overweight condition has contributed to the fuel-burn performance deficiency.
“The airplane is a little short on the guarantees and we’ve said that in the past,” said Albaugh. “But we’ve got a number of performance improvement packages that we’ll be getting from GE and I think we’ll get the engine specific fuel consumption where it needs to be.” Four GEnx-2B turbofans power the 747-8, which, according to Boeing, would deliver a 13-percent seat-mile cost improvement over the 747-400.
Although he didn’t specify from which parts of the airplane Boeing hopes to shed weight, Albaugh added that program head Elizabeth Lund continues to identify “opportunities.”
“The last time I looked at the guarantee chart, we had a plan to get us very, very close to where we needed to be,” said Albaugh. “But we’re not far off right now, and we’ve got a plan to get there.”
Presumably, Boeing has shared the details of the plan with Lufthansa, which plans to fly its first revenue service with the 747-8 between Frankfurt and Washington Dulles on June 1.
In a written statement sent to AIN, Boeing’s 747-8 program spokesman stressed the gains the program has already achieved since it became apparent the fuel burn of the first airplanes delivered would fall short of specifications.
“Our flight loads survey testing presented us opportunities to further enhance the airplane’s performance through further weight savings as well as to improve our payload-range capability by increasing our maximum taxi weight, maximum takeoff weight, maximum landing weight and zero-fuel weight,” he said. “Some of these opportunities are immediate; others will happen farther out in the delivery stream. Many enhancements in weight and performance will be made available for airplanes that are already in service.”