AirBridgeCargo Airlines has taken delivery of its third 747-8F, VQ-BGZ (msn: 37580), seen here about to depart for Hong Kong on delivery flight ABW1011 (ABW is AirbridgeCargo’s ICAO code) from Paine Field.
VQ-BGZ was chronologically the first 747-8F built for AirBridgeCargo – completed in early 2011 – but did not actually fly until September 16th of this year. Like some of the other early 747-8s, it required a certain amount of rework/refurbishment before delivery, work which commenced back in very late August when it was moved from the tower apron at Paine to the flight line.
The majority of these early-build airplanes have been delivered or are close to delivery, including the test airplanes, which included NCA’s JA12KZ, seen here last week. For the first time since the first 747-8s began leaving building 40-22 at the factory, there are no stored 747-8 Freighters at Everett – all are in prep for delivery. Included in the rework and prep are the trio of freighters built for, but not taken up by, Atlas Air. The last of these aircraft moved from storage to rework on the flight line on November 29.
The delivery of VQ-BGZ was the 27th 747-8 delivery of the year and Polar’s first aircraft (N853GT) was the 28th, though that number includes passenger and VIP versions of the 747-8i. Looking at the 747-8 program as a whole, the total number of 747-8Fs delivered now stands at 27, with ten 747-8i’s delivered (all in 2012), four to Lufthansa and the rest to VIP customers (mainly governments), though these latter aircraft are all being fitted with special interiors and none have yet entered service.
For recently built aircraft, the pace of deliveries and the process of delivery prep from the time the aircraft leaves the factory to the fly-away have also increased. For N853GT (Atlas/Polar/DHL), the process from first flight to delivery took less than ten days.
Recently built aircraft seem to have other advantages, as well. Although not publicly stated by the manufacturer, according to Cargolux executive Yves Germeaux, speaking recently at the Ascend Aviation 2020 finance forum, 2.5 tons of weight have been trimmed from the aircraft since the early deliveries and slight aerodynamic tweaks have been made to the ailerons to increase aerodynamic efficiency. The airplanes are expected to become even more efficient next year when the second performance improvement package (PIP) from GE is released for the GEnx-2B engines.
AirBridgeCargo’s first 747-8F, VQ-BLR, suffered an engine failure at Shanghai Pudong on Sept. 11, but that aircraft has been back in service for some time without further incident. The cause of the failure was traced to an improperly assembled low-pressure turbine nozzle, leading to one time inspections of all other GEnx engines. This failure was unrelated to the fan mid-shaft cracks found on two 787s in Charleston earlier this year. The GEnx has, however, been relatively trouble free overall.
Meanwhile, the Russian carrier has completed phasing out the 747 classic as the trio of new 747-8Fs have come online, with the final three classics, two -200s and a single -300M, sold off or stored by the beginning of this past summer, including VP-BIJ (msn: 25171), the very last 747 classic built.
© Photographer: Alex Kwanten