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Originally published August 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM | Page modified August 3, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Boeing's new jumbo freighter completes certification flights

The freighter version of the new Boeing 747-8 jumbo jet completed its final certification flight test Wednesday morning shortly after midnight, flying a route that traced a giant 747 across the map of the U.S.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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The freighter version of the new Boeing 747-8 jumbo jet completed its final certification flight test Wednesday morning shortly after midnight.

On the 17-hour flight, completing final testing of the jet's complex systems, the crew took a route that spelled out 747 in jumbo-sized digits across the map of the United States.

The Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) must now process the final flight data and complete paperwork to certify the airplane to enter service.

When that's done, the first 747-8 freighter is expected to be delivered to Cargolux of Luxembourg next month.

The giant sky-writing traced by the plane's route was visible only when the flight track was superimposed on a map of the continental U.S. FlightAware, a company that tracks both private and commercial daily air traffic in the U.S., tracked the route online at http://bit.ly/oiktzE.

The plane took off from Paine Field in Everett just after 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and headed east.

Over central Montana, the pilots made a 300 degree turn and aimed for the distant California coast, reaching the ocean over San Luis Obispo. The plane then reversed course, 180 degrees, to stick to the path of the first 7 the crew were tracing in the air.

The plane left that path over Wyoming, changing course to begin tracing the digit 4.

In North Dakota, the plane swung around abruptly again to head south to Texas. The jet flew hundreds of miles south, then back along the same track all the way to North Dakota, creating the vertical leg of the 4.

Once back at the top of the 4, the plane veered due east again, to trace the horizontal leg of the second 7 as far as Duluth, Minn., at the western tip of Lake Superior.

At that point, the plane then turned southwest, hitting the bottom of the 7 at the Texas/Oklahoma border before flying back up the same path again.

Over Iowa, the crew began its return journey to Paine Field, for the most part staying close to the lines already traced on the way out.

The plane, which took off at 7:08 a.m. Tuesday, landed at Paine Field at 12:08 a.m. Wednesday.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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