After another cool and wet stay in Anchorage I wanted to share a few more pictures from my latest trip, as well as some from LAX last weekend!
Sitting here in the crew bunk of a 747-8 that was only delivered to the company in August of this year (2012), I am thinking this is as good a time as any to update my blog. It has been a while since my last entry. The month of September involved a mere four hours of work, with my family visiting for 2 weeks. But here I am back to work (it’s been a nice holiday, but I enjoy my job enough that I was really looking forward to flying again.) Last week involved an Anchorage trip that was flown in a 747-400 ERF. In fact on the way to Anchorage, we flew the last production 747-400 Boeing ever built. Of course the only 747’s that Boeing are pushing out of the production hangar doors these days, are the 747-8’s. Both in a freighter and passenger variant (the 747-8i). Cathay does not have any of the passenger model, but as I mentioned, today I find myself in one of our 747-8F’s.
The first noticeable difference when we start a day of work on this type, comes when we get our paperwork. Among the first things checked are fuel, flight time, and weights. Of course we follow this up with an in depth look at enroute weather, winds, NOTAM’s, as well as departure and destination weather. First when it comes to fuel, you might think the bigger 747-8 would burn more. However the opposite is true. General Electric GeNx 2B engines are a relatively new design, and are highly fuel efficient. Noticeably more so then the Rolls Royce or Pratt-Whitney power plants on the 747-400. So when it comes to our flight planning, the fuel burn between typical freighter routes (HKG-ANC) is very little. Quite often the -8 will burn even less than the -400. Fuel burn is of course dependent on gross weight. This is where the big difference comes. The 747-8F has a MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) of slightly more then 447 Tons, or about 985,000 pounds. The -400 tips the scales at a mere 397 Tons, or 875,000 pounds. When fuel burn is near identical, but payload of the -8 being much greater, the 747-8 has a much better fuel used per kilogram of freight travelled, per mile (I hope that makes sense). This is where the -8 variant really shines, with the flying time being about the same (within a few minutes, often faster) the fuel/time/weight battle between the two has a clear winner. After all, Boeing did design the -8 to be a more efficient version of it’s most recognizable design. When I took a look at an LA to HKG flightplan the other day for our 747-8, it showed being in the air for 15.5 hours, with 17 hours endurance. Very impressive fuel figures. What was even more impressive was this was with 140,000 kgs of gas, and room for another 45,000 kgs. Pushing the endurance to past the 20 hour mark. Did I mention there was also room for about 40,000 kgs more cargo? Impressive I know.
Once paper work has been thoroughly looked over, it’s off to the airplane. This is again where we see some big differences. It might be hard to imagine driving up to a 747-8, but I can say there is a definite wow factor. The first noticeable feature is the wing, and what hangs off it. Unlike the -400, the raked wingtip of the -8 has a modern/futuristic look to it. Simply put, it looks fast. The GeNx-2B engines have a distinct trailing edge cowl to them, as well as a larger intake. So the first sight of the -8 offers little confusion as to which model 747 you are approaching. Once inside the main deck L1 door, the cargo hold offers very little if any differences to the -400 freighters. The next obvious difference is climbing into the upper deck. The galley layout is oriented different then the -400, and with new leather seats in the crew rest area, again you realize this is a new machine.
Entering the cockpit. To the naked eye, there is very little differences to the -400. This was a purpose built cockpit, as Boeing could only have so many differences before the -8 became a whole other type rating for pilots to be trained on. Keeping a similar type rating of course offers advantages to the customer airline buying the -8, as training costs are very low when simply converting to the -8 from the -400. The majority of the differences you could say are, “under the hood”.
Once airborne at a weight similar to the MTOW of the -400 we climbed straight away to 36,000 feet. The -400 usually starts the HKG-ANC sector at 31,000 feet. Of course if we were at gross weight, the cruising level would have started out lower. The best thing I could say about the airplane as a flying machine, is quite simply, efficient. It climbs fast, accelerates at heavy weights nicely, and doesn’t want to stop flying once it’s in cruise. On descent we needed the speed brake to slow down, as the ultra efficient wing needed a little help in the distance we had remaining.
The flight across the North Pacific was relatively uneventful. We were higher and faster then virtually all other eastbound crossing traffic, which is always nice for the ego. We also had some spectacular views along the way. Below are just some of those views.