US aerospace giant Boeing's newest version of its 747 jumbo jet took to the skies for the first time yesterday, the company said.
The 747-8 is Boeing's answer to the A380, the super-jumbo aircraft made by European rival Airbus.
Boeing claims the high-capacity 747-8 Freighter will give cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any freighter plane while providing enhanced environmental performance.
It provides customers with 16 per cent more revenue cargo volume compared with the 747-400 freighter, the company says.
A commercial passenger version, the 747-8 Intercontinental, is also under development.
The 747-8 Freighter destined for launch customer Cargolux, a Luxembourg-based cargo airline, taxied down a runway at Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington state, and lifted off at 12.39pm, a Boeing webcast showed.
The airport is home to the Boeing manufacturing plant for the 747, 767, 777, and the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, whose advanced technologies the new 747-8 shares.
Pilots Mark Feuerstein and Thomas Imrich have about "three to four hours to test out this airplane for the first time", a Boeing spokesman said on the video.
They may decide to cut the flight short because the take-off had been delayed by inclement weather and they would want to land before nightfall, the spokesman said.
Like the 787 Dreamliner program, the 747-8 program has been plagued by delays due to production problems and a machinists' strike.
First deliveries, initially slated for late last year, are now set for the fourth quarter of this year.
The 787 Dreamliner made its first flight on December 15, more than two years behind the original schedule.
The designation 747-8 was chosen to reflect 787 Dreamliner technologies, the Chicago-based aerospace giant said.
The 747-8 Freighter "performed well" in taxi tests on Saturday, the last functional test before the aircraft's first flight, said Mo Yahyavi, 747 program vice-president and general manager of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
"Based on early indications, the airplane is ready to fly."
Boeing highlights that this latest fuel-efficient version of its popular jumbo jet is the only large plane that fits existing airport infrastructure.
The 747-8 Intercontinental is 16 per cent more fuel efficient than the 747-400 and 11 per cent more fuel efficient than the A380, the super jumbo plane made by European rival Airbus, the company says.
Boeing launched the 747-8 plane on November 14, 2005, with firm orders for 18 747-8 Freighters; 10 from Cargolux and eight from Nippon Cargo Airlines of Japan.
The company said that through January it had 76 orders for the 747-8 Freighters, including from Cathay Pacific Airways and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise. The listed price range was $US301.5 million ($349.4 million) to $US304.5 million.
For the 747-8 Intercontinental, Boeing reported 32 orders: Lufthansa (20), Business Jet/VIP customers (seven), and Korean Air (five). The passenger aircraft was priced between $US293 and $US308 million.
* Boeing's 787 Dreamliner maiden flight