The Boeing 747-8 is 18 feet longer and 13 feet wider than the 747-400, the model currently used for both cargo and some passenger flights.
More than 50 vehicles lined the street near Fresno Yosemite International Airport as Boeing conducted flight tests on and off the runway, comparing two the jets. Both impressed onlookers.
"It's not that often something like that comes to Fresno. I thought it would be a treat to see it," said Lorence Liscano of Fresno.
People of all ages spent their lunch hours or time off from work to watch the tests. Some even set up lawn chairs and made it a family event.
Leslee Murphy of Clovis brought her two daughters and four year old grandson, Seth, a young plane enthusiast. "It's all for him so he can see the thrill of seeing it land. We're all excited to see him excited," said Murphy.
For many, witnessing Monday's tests was a first of a kind experience. But a group of veterans meets near the airport daily, watching planes of all kinds take off and land. Even for them, this was no ordinary day.
"There are days you get nothing but corporate air taking off. And they're as exciting as watching paint dry," Gordon Sangster of Fresno said.
His friend and fellow veteran Sonny Shreffler said he got to their regular spot at 5:30 a.m., knowing there would be crowds.
"Very rarely do they ever come in like they did today. For two? One, yeah. Two... never. This is the first time it's ever happened," said Shreffler.
A spokesperson for Fresno Yosemite International Airport said FYI was selected for testing because of clear airspace and its favorable climate.
Months ago, Boeing installed a tower and an air balloon near the runway to collect data and more testing will be scheduled over the next few months.
Odds are, the regulars will be here for that, too. For them, the feeling of seeing planes take flight is almost hard to describe.
"I don't know if you're married, but when you see that fella you love, and you get that tingly feeling in your body, that's how I feel," said Shreffler.