Jumbo-Sized Jumbo Arrives

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What adjective do you use to describe a jumbo jet that’s been given a plus-size makeover? While the spinmasters come up with one, Boeing is celebrating the arrival of the first of its Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighters at Boeing Field in Seattle. The plane, which is modified with an outsized fuselage and a hinged empennage, is one of three that will be used to carry wing and fuselage parts for the new 787 from offshore contractors. The arrival of the plane, which was on its first long-distance flight (from Taipei), was symbolic for those on the 787 program. "These planes will be a cornerstone," Scott Strode, who’s in charge of the 787 program, told the Bellingham Herald. "It's one of our most visible milestones this year for the 787 because we have to have it certified and ready to ship hardware by early next year."

Rather than build the freighters, Boeing bought three used 747-400s and had them modified by Evergreen Aviation Technologies Group in Taiwan. The aircraft use the same engines and many other components but there’s not much resemblance to the passenger planes from which they are derived. For one thing, only the flight deck, with room for three pilots (there’s usually a relief pilot on long-haul flights) is pressurized. The cavernous hold is 26 feet high and the huge tail swings open for loading. Joe MacDonald, Boeing’s chief 747 pilot, was the captain on the flight and said it was like any other trip. "When you're sitting in the pilot seat, you can't tell the difference between this and any other 747," he told the Herald.