Boeing has identified, approved and started the process of implementing a weight-reduction effort that will shave some 3,500 pounds from the 747-8, program head Mohammad “Mo” Yahyavi told AIN last week. “This is like any development program; your first article airplanes are slightly heavier than you want them to be,” conceded Yahyavi. “At this point we are working with our suppliers. For example, one of our suppliers–[GE subsidiary] Middle River, which makes our thrust reversers for us–is coming up with some really good ideas for weight reduction and we are working with them to apply those.” One of those ideas involved switching from a steel to an aluminum ring. Asked about possible changes to materials used in other parts of the 747-8 to lighten the structure, Yahyavi confirmed “there are a few of those examples going on right now,” as program engineers prepare for scheduled first flight of the freighter version during the fourth quarter. Boeing has now begun work on seven airplanes in all, three of which it plans to use for certification trials.
Meanwhile, the engineering team has delivered 100 drawing releases on time for the passenger version of the airplane–the 747-8 Intercontinental–for 35 straight weeks, said Yahyavi, placing the program a month and a half ahead of a schedule that calls for first flight in the first quarter of 2011. Boeing has still drawn just a single firm order from an airline—for 20 from Germany’s Lufthansa—but it also holds orders for seven VIP versions, most of which Yayhavi said he expects the company will deliver by late 2011 or early 2012. “We are actively involved with several customers on the Intercontinental,” he said. “Many, many [current 747-400 operators] are going to look at the 747-8. It’s going to be a matter of time, but we are engaged with several of those customers.”