GE's new 747 flying testbed colors

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General Electric’s new Boeing 747-400 flying testbed has been delivered to Evergreen Aviation Technologies (EGAT) in Taiwan for installation of data racks, instrumentation wiring and instrumentation equipment. The aircraft is also scheduled to undergo wing structural modifications during the second half of the year in readiness for its first test flights in 2014. The aircraft was flown to EGAT from Taikoo Aircraft Engineering, Xiamen, where heavy maintenance and interior modifications had been performed. GE, which continues to operate its original Pratt & Whitney JT9D-powered 747-100, acquired the ex-Japan Airlines -400 in December 2010 as part of preparations for tests of a new wave of engines including the CFM Leap-1, Passport business jet engine, GEnx derivatives and the forthcoming GE9X for the proposed 777X.

The newer 747 will provide greater capability than the 1960s-era legacy testbed in terms of a larger flight performance envelope, greater range and payload, and improved integrated systems. Powered by CF6-80C2 engines, the 747-400 will have excess performance and better capability says GE. The current aircraft is barely able to achieve the 43,000 ft required for 787 engine test points for sustained periods, whereas this will comfortably be achieved with the newer version, it adds. Aside from greater range and endurance, up to 15 hours of flight time versus the 8 to 9 hour flights normally flown by the current 747, the newer aircraft is also configured with contemporary Arinc 429-based digital avionics.

Meanwhile, GE’s stalwart ex-Pan Am operated 747-100 flying testbed, the oldest example of the 747 still flying, is busy wrapping up tests of the upgraded GEnx-2B Performance Improvement Package (PIP) at Victorville, Calif. The upgraded engine - seen above in the number two (inboard positiion)  - will power the 747-8.

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