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Boeing 747-8 Should Run Passenger Evacuation Tests, Airbus Says

Boeing 747-8 Should Run Passenger Evacuation Tests
The Boeing Co. 747-8 Intercontinental jumbo jet is rolled out at te company's manufacturing facility in Everett, Washington. Photographer: Kevin P. Casey/Bloomberg

Boeing Co. should be required by U.S. regulators to run passenger-evacuation tests on its new 747-8 Intercontinental since the jumbo jet can carry more people than its predecessor, rival Airbus SAS’s sales chief said.

Boeing, whose original 747 first flew in 1968, unveiled its latest version of the aircraft last weekend. The 747-8 will carry about 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration, about 12 percent more than the 747-400 flying today, according to Boeing’s website.

The Chicago-based company has asked U.S. aviation officials for a waiver on emergency evacuation tests for the new model because of tests performed on the original version four decades ago, Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told journalists today in Paris.

“That’s wrong,” he said. “I intend to fly in that airplane one of these days and I’d like to know you can get out of it.”

Boeing declined to respond directly to Leahy’s comment. The company will work closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on certification for the 747-8.

“We will meet or exceed all certification standards,” said Jim Proulx, a spokesman for the Chicago-based planemaker.

The FAA couldn’t immediately comment, a spokesman said.

Emergency evacuation tests require a planemaker to fill the aircraft with the maximum number of passengers and crew that it’s certified to carry, and then have everyone exit the plane in darkness, with random doors shut, to ensure that the plane can be emptied in the event of an emergency.

Airbus in 2006 evacuated 873 people from its A380 in 80 seconds, 10 seconds faster than its goal. One person broke a leg in the exercise, which was carried out in a dark hangar at an Airbus factory in Hamburg.

Boeing plans to take the 747-8 on its first flight before the end of March.

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