Boeing's first 747-8I delivered to Mideast customer?

Speculation that the undisclosed purchaser hails from Qatar or Saudi.
NEWS, Aviation

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Boeing delivered the first 747-8 Intercontinental VIP airplane in the world yesterday, with mounting speculation that the undisclosed customer hails from the Middle East.

While the owner was initially rumoured to be a Saudi Arabian billionaire, a report posted on seattlepi.com moments before the delivery stated that government-owned VIP airline Qatar Amiri Flight had purchased the airplane, which cost around US$333 million. “I have gathered enough information and feel confident in announcing that the owner of the first 747-8 Intercontinental is Qatar Amiri Flight,” wrote aviation journalist David Parker Brown.

The airplane, which was delivered with a minimal interior, will enter service in 2014 after its VIP interior is installed. With a maximum range of 16,372 km, it has 481.1 square metres of cabin space and enough capacity for 100 passengers.

According to Boeing, the aircraft provides double-digit improvements in fuel burn and emissions over the 747-400, and is 30 percent more quiet. With a normal cruise speed of Mach 0.86, it is also the fastest large commercial jet.

"This is a great day for Boeing," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The 747 is the most iconic airplane in the world, and I know customers are going to love what we've done to enhance its performance. The Intercontinental is fast, efficient and quiet, offering real savings and a great flying experience. And I believe it's one of the most beautiful airplanes in the sky."

To date, undisclosed customers have ordered nine 747-8 VIP airplanes.