Lufthansa and Boeing will conduct a three-day, pre-delivery evaluation of the 747-8I passenger aircraft this week following the overnight ferry flight of test aircraft RC021 to Frankfurt.

The work will help Lufthansa maintenance and engineering staff rehearse ground-handling processes for the 747-8, which at 250 ft. long is more than 18 ft. longer than the existing Boeing 747-400s in the airline’s fleet. Boeing says tests “will check how their ground-support equipment accommodates the airplane.” The work, similar to the pre-service testing conducted with the Boeing 787 and All Nippon Airways earlier this year, is designed to help smooth service entry for the 747-8, scheduled in early 2012.

The 747-8 is scheduled to arrive at Frankfurt Airport late afternoon today after an approximately nine-hour flight from Seattle. Boeing says three Lufthansa pilots will join two company pilots for the flight.

The visiting aircraft is one of three test airframes in the 747-8 passenger variant certification program and will be the fifth to join Lufthansa’s fleet when it is delivered in the third quarter 2012. It was specifically used to test interior systems, such as heating and air conditioning and cabin lighting, systems and galleys. The first of 20 for delivery to the airline is completing construction at Boeing’s facility in Everett, Wash.

Before yesterday’s transatlantic flight, RC021 was used for a customer demonstration flight on Dec. 3. This was likely for Lufthansa prior to the flight to Germany, though Boeing declines comment on specific customer flights, so this cannot be confirmed. Sister test 747-8I aircraft RC001, meanwhile, is engaged in further tests of the General Electric GEnx-2B engine. Testing is currently focused on ground operations with engine out taxi tests at Moses Lake, Wash., over the weekend, followed by further checks on vapor leakage at Boeing Field.

One 747-8F also remains in the active test program. Sister ships RC522 and 523 were ferried to San Antonio, Texas, for refurbishment on Oct. 6 and Aug. 7, respectively.

The last test aircraft is being used to help complete parts of the Russian aircraft certification program, as well as to check final refinements of the troublesome flight control system, which contributed so much to the original delay in FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency certification. Recent tests, for example, have focused on checking the tension of flight control cables during cold soak temperatures of the type that will be experienced by the Russian-operated aircraft in particular.