If you’ve been reading my blog, you know it’s no secret that I have a passion for aircraft and all things Lufthansa. Naturally, I am excited to see Lufthansa’s 747-8i enter service in a few short weeks. With delivery slated for April 23 and Lufthansa announcing the first route served will be Frankfurt-Washington DC, we are really getting close to see the newest aviation marvel grace the skies.

This month in Lufthansa’s Ipad App, TIM CAPPELMANN talks with Boeing’s ELIZABETH LUND, Vice President and General Manager of the 747-8i project. Suffice it to say she has the BEST JOB in the world! Enjoy the interview (and see if you pick up on the hint of another potential model)…

Lufthansa Magazin: The first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental has at last been delivered. What was the biggest challenge you faced during it’s development?

Elizabeth Lund: It’s exciting to get to design and build a new airplane. But it’s always an exercise in resilience, perseverance and patience, too. The difficult part is that each day brings with it 10 to 15 huge challenges for us to solve. The biggest one for me is to stay balanced and focused and work through them.

Lufthansa Magazin:Not everything went according to plan with the 747-8i….

Elizabeth Lund: That’s true. But the problems that led to the delivery being delayed were also blown up by the press. We have built a great airplane and it will continue to be so. With brand-new wings, engines and systems,a stretched body, changes to the interior and new flight control services. We may have taken a little longer than planned, but the extra time and effort are now paying off.

Lufthansa Magazin: In what way?

Elizabeth Lund: Every new airplane has it’s teething troubles – but the modifications and improvements also begin once the airplane has been delivered to the customer. the 747-8 is extremely sophisticated. The 300 hours of flight test credits required for licensing by the aviation authorities went smoothly, exceeding even our own expectations. Normally, these tests take at least 18 days and that’s a pretty ambitious time frame. We took just 15 days and there were no delays, no cancellations. We were aiming for at least 95 percent reliability and functionality and we exceed that straight off. What a pleasant surprise that was!

Lufthansa Magazin: What was it like to work with Lufthansa?

Elizabeth Lund: We have a very special relationship. Lufthansa has huge experience in flying multiple models, high technical background and knowledge. That’s something we value. As launch customer, Lufthansa had a tremendous influence on the design of the “dash 8”. There’s lots of interactions on many levels – between the engineers and pilots, in maintenance, training and management. We set up a joint expert working group together some years ago that now meets every month. There is interaction at some level every day. We give each other feedback, discuss modifications and configurations. Working together as a team is unique; it’s a huge benefit for us both.

Lufthansa Magazin: There’s an anecdote making the rounds that Lufthansa chief of fleet management, Nico Buchholz, drew the design for the 747-8 on a paper napkin. Is there any truth in that assertion?

Elizabeth Lund: It’s absolutely true. Nico helped draw up the design on a napkin during a dinner meeting. That’s a level of influence really no other customer has!

Lufthansa Magazin: What’s next? A “dash 9”?

Elizabeth Lund: Oh Lord, I’d have said “no” a couple of months ago. But now…you never know. And you should never say never. But first we will carry on working, with input from Lufthansa, to continuously optimize and modify the new airplane. The question then will be a strategic one: Where is the market headed? What kind of demand can airlines expect over the next few years? Are there any gaps in what we offer our customers?

Lufthansa Magazin: Apart from making constant improvements to the airplane, what form does the Boeing-Lufthansa partnership take following delivery?

Elizabeth Lund: During the entire entry-into-service period, in other words while the airplane is joining the fleet and being taken into operation, we support pilot training, train maintenance and repair staff and demonstrate technical changes in the aircraft on site. What’s more, we have a team in Frankfurt that also consists of experts from our suppliers. this means we are well prepared to cope with every conceivable problem.

Lufthansa Magazin: What do you personally like best about your job?

Elizabeth Lund: That I have such an amazing team of people to work with! The difficult part is the many challenges we face. But the very fun part is that every day people think about how to solve them. Our employees are amazing at what they do. They love airplanes, they identify with Boeing, they are exceptionally well trained and very smart. It’s great fun to be working with them and I regard it as a privilege. At the end of the day, it’s down to the employees.

Lufthansa Magazin: How did you get into aviation?

Elizabeth Lund: I grew up in a generation in which you dressed up to go to the airport and you watched in awe as the airplanes took off and landed. It was a big deal and you had this awe of flying. My first flight as a child was a very special experience I love to remember. My grandfather was an engineer; that got me interested in the subject. At engineering school I did my master’s thesis on the structure of the automobile. And then I thought: Wait a minute! I can actually do that on an airplane instead of a car – and how much more interesting would that be? When I turned my attention to aviation, it bowled me over straight away. Finally my husband and I moved to Seattle and I realised that I would just have to apply for a job with Boeing. That was twenty years ago. Luckily, it worked out well!