Birth of a new Boeing jumbo

Boeing Co rolled out a new jumbo jet on Sunday, hoping to relive the glamour surrounding the birth of the 747 over 40 years ago and use it to boost slow sales. The 747-8 Intercontinental will seat 467 passengers, 51 more than the current version of the 747, and burn less fuel while offering passengers more comfort, the U.S. planemaker says.

Sunday’s rollout, in front of a crowd of almost 10,000 Boeing employees, their families and a select group of industry VIPs, took place at the same Everett plant outside Seattle. Near the front of the seated audience was Joe Sutter, Boeing’s chief engineer on the original jumbo, and known as the “father of the 747.” The plane itself, unveiled from behind an enormous curtain to rapturous, thudding music, was bright red and white — a departure from Boeing’s classic blue — bearing generic Boeing livery on the side and ‘747’ on its orange tail. The 747 lost its crown as the world’s largest airliner when the 525-seat Airbus A380 was unveiled in 2005. But at 19 feet longer than its predecessors, this one will be the longest.

It is the first time the 747 fuselage has been stretched to make the biggest passenger jet marketed by a U.S. manufacturer. The 747-8 — listed at $317.5 million — also boasts new wings, a new tail, state-of-the-art engines and a new cockpit, making it, according to specialist magazine Flight International, “unrecognizable from that first jumbo jetliner.”

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