Boeing has had a rough year, but for the engineering departments 2010 will be remembered as a great year. Earlier in the year the 787 had its maiden flight, and yesterday the Boeing 747-8 had a successful first flight in some unseasonably great weather (for the history buffs, it occurred just 1 day short of the 41st anniversary of the first flight of the 747-100).
We were in the commons having lunch and saw the takeoff live on TV. It made me pause; the 787 and 747-8 will both have a major impact on the aviation industry. Microsoft released Win 7 a little while ago and will be releasing Office 2010 in a few months, all products which will have major impact; Amazon.com (a little drive up the freeway) essentially invented cloud computing with its S3 system just a few years ago, and basically invented the new industry of services computing; All these major engineering projects were undertaken within a few miles of each other. Seattle really is an interesting place to be if you are interested in technology.
If you are wondering how the 747-8 differs from the more common 747-400, it is fairly significant: it has a fuselage stretch, completely new wings and runs on the new GeNX engines (the same that power the 787). It is a major project; it probably took about 40%-50% of the effort required to develop a completely new aircraft.
A video of the first take off:
Here is a nice video of the taxi tests which took place on Friday: