Boeing began flight testing a new package of upgrades to the engines and avionics of one of its flagship aircraft this week, the 747-8 Intercontinental. The Performance Improvement Package (PIP), includes enhancements to the large passenger aircraft’s GE-2nx engines and Flight Management Computer (FMC), continuing a string of upgrades that Boeing has installed over the past two years to improve fuel efficiency.
(Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8I. Photo: Boeing.)
Since delivering the first 747-8 freighter to launch customer Cargolux in 2011, Boeing has introduced several improvements to the aircraft, including an update to the Rockwell Collins-supplied Integrated Display System (IDS) in February which enabled the Airport Moving Map and improved display messages for hydraulics and flight controls.
On Tuesday, a team of Boeing test pilots performed a four-hour flight test from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., to evaluate the new engine and FMC improvements. The flight tests occurred after extensive lab testing of the FMC upgrades.
"It was a great flight and the engines performed as expected. This is an important milestone for the flight test program,” said Boeing Test and Evaluation Captain Kirk Vining, who operated the flight test with 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein.
Improvements included in the new PIP will add quiet climb capability to the flight management system, giving the 747-8's FMC automation control over engine thrust. The new upgrade also adds Optimal Wind Trade Step and Required Navigation Performance capabilities to the FMC.
(747-8 Flight Deck. Photo: Boeing.)
The FMC upgrades are primarily software changes, and will also be available for Boeing 747-400 operators.
“The latest version of the Flight Management Computer (FMC) software will give our customers greater capabilities such as quiet climb, Optimal Wind Trade Step and Required Navigation Performance, allowing them to operate at maximum efficiency in today’s modern Air Traffic Control (ATC) environment,” said Joanna Pickup, a spokesperson for Boeing’s 747 program.
Boeing estimates that the new avionics and engine upgrades will lead to a savings of up to $1 million annually on fuel costs for airlines operating the 747-8. Certification testing of the upgrade package is continuing in collaboration with Honeywell, the company that supplies the FMC for the 747-8.
The new PIP is expected to enter into service later this year, with first delivery scheduled for 2014. It will be standard on new production 747-8 passenger and freighter airplanes after certification is complete.