Arrivals

The 787 factory is officially open for business. And it’s time to start assembling the first 787 Dreamliners.

I have to say there’s no experience quite like watching a new airplane come together. I’ve been with Boeing for more than 25 years now, and I’ve been lucky enough to see the 757, 767, and 777 come together.

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The nose of the 787 Dreamliner, at the start of final assembly yesterday in Everett.

All-new airplanes don’t come around often. For many Boeing employees today, the Dreamliner will be their first new airplane rollout.

We’re certainly getting closer, with the factory opening and start of final assembly yesterday, following the flurry of deliveries of major parts to Everett over the past month. Well, we call them deliveries, but you might just as well call them “arrivals.”

And I thought it would be interesting to review just how we got to this point in the assembly process.

The first major assembly arrived in Everett on the Dreamlifter at the end of April. Its tail door swung open, and we unloaded the horizontal stabilizer for the 787.

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April 25 – The horizontal stabilizer is unloaded. Manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica in Italy, the completed assembly will have a span of about 62 feet and measures 32 feet fore/aft.

Then, about 11 days ago, three large all-composite fuselage sections arrived - the nose section (what we call “section 41”), and the two aft sections of the fuselage known as “section 47” and “section 48.”

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May 11 - The composite forward section - in white – is manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan. It’s 21 feet in diameter and 42 feet long. The aft sections – in black – were manufactured and joined by Vought Aircraft Industries in Charleston, South Carolina. Section 47 is 23 feet long and 19 feet in diameter. Section 48 is 15 feet long and 14 feet in diameter.

Once these fuselage sections arrive, they are immediately taken off the Dreamlifter using a specially designed Cargo Loader and moved into the 787 factory. This delivery of three sections represents 40% of the 787’s fuselage. And it’s a very tangible sign that the Dreamliner is taking shape.

A few days later, standing on edge in custom-made tooling, the wings arrived from Japan.

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May 15 - Very early morning arrival of the gigantic composite wings for the 787. Manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan, Each wing is 98 feet long.

Then, last Wednesday, the final major structure arrived in Everett - the integrated mid-body fuselage. This consists of “section 43,” a forward section made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries; “section 11/45,” the center wheel well and center wing tank, made by KHI and Fuji Heavy Industries and joined at FHI; and “sections 44 and 46,” the center fuselage sections made by Alenia Aeronautica in Italy. The sections were joined at Global Aeronautica in Charleston, South Carolina and then flown to Everett.

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May 16 - The last of the major airframe components for the first Dreamliner arrived in Everett. Wrapped in black, this section fully filled the cargo bay of the Dreamlifter, with about six inches of clearance. This integrated section is 84 feet long and 19 feet in diameter.

What can’t been seen from these photos is the incredible work done by the “Global Logistics” team in Everett. They have the task of off-loading the parts and moving them into the factory. In just these first four deliveries they made remarkable progress in improving their turn time.

From the time the Dreamlifter touched down on the runway to the time the logistics team walked away from the airplane - product out and job done - here are the times it took the crew to complete the Everett deliveries:

  • Horizontal Stabilizer: 3 hours, 27 minutes
  • Sections 41, 47 and 48: 3 hours, 22 minutes
  • Wings: 1 hour, 38 minutes
  • Midbody fuselage: 1 hour, 23 minutes

It’s pretty amazing, and I think this team deserves a ton of credit for making these kinds of improvements on the initial deliveries in a brand new process.

All in all, after seeing these “arrivals” and now the start of final assembly, I’d have to second what Scott Strode, 787 vice president of Airplane Definition and Production said last week: “The Dreamliner is no dream anymore – it’s real, and it’s here.”

Comments (13)

Chris C (South Africa):

ALL THE BEST FOR THE PRODUCTION OF THE WORLD'S MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED AND SUPER-EFFICIENT AIRPLANE - THE BOEING 787 DREAMLINER!! I think it is only fitting to give seven hundred and eighty-seven cheers for this airplane. Congratulations.

R Bonini (Glasgow, United Kingdom):

I'll second that!!

Since there's so much interest in the Dreamliner, it would be a clever marketing move to install a few live webcams so people can check out whats going on.

Saj (London, UK):

First, a big hats off to Randy T for keeping the journal so perfectly well updated for all avid readers.

Seeing the 787 in final assembly is not just a symbol of what can be achieved by working together, its testimony that Boeing has faith in its global partners, as the worlds airlines too have faith that the 787 can deliver what the A350 cannot.

Randy B had already point this out on his previous blog entry- and with so much uncertainty over the A350, clearly targetting the 777 with virtually no superiority a decade (late) from now, the 787 is the answer to the question the marketplace has asked now.

Three cheers for giving airlines and passengers what they want- a 21st revolutionary airplane, unmatched, unrivalled and a reality.

chrisC (San Jose, CA):

Great post on the start of the 787 assembly! Not so long ago, I remembered the other airplane company transporting the bits and pieces of their showcase airplane in river barges through narrow village roads to the chagrin of village folks.

I think Boeing is doing the right thing using the Dream-Lifter instead of using river barges and eighteen wheelers. Also, baking barrels in sections just seemed more high tech than riveting quadrants together?

I hope the six day turn around will be reality soon.

James (Honolulu, HI, USA):

I can't wait for 7/8/07 to see the 787! Question: when the 777 was being tested, one flew all the way to Hawaii... can we expect the same for the 787? Say "Yes!", please.

vaidya sethuraman (chicago,IL ,USA):

That is the difference -project management betweeen AIrbus and Boeing; apart from superior marketing skills in identifying the need for 787 as against the 380 by Airbus.
This round is clearly to Boeing.

Kit Pong (Penang, Malaysia):

Wow, these photos are really incredible.
Can't wait to see the beautiful bird fly.

Ted Cook (Mt. Vernon, WA):

Your first picture is a nice overhead shot of the front of the 787. This is the first new Boeing commercial airliner cockpit fuselage section in 25 years! Think about it, 25 years. The cockpit section for the 767 is used on the 777-300er being built the next door down.

Dave S (Rome Italy):

Ahhhh Yes......on time and on budget.....

Two things I definitely like in a new airplane.

Gordon Werner (Seattle, WA):

Is there any chance that the public will be able to take a close look at the first 787? I think it would be terrific if it were put on display next to the Future of Flight Aviation Center ...

The public never gets to actually "touch" the new airplanes ... it would be nice if that could change.

G////France:

Parts rolled in, now we are impatient to see the first 787 to roll out on 7/8/7.

Felix (Taiwan):

Everything seems to be on track for the final assembly of the 787 so far.

However, can there be more information provided in regards to the three 747 Dreamlifters?

Since, the Dreamlifters play a major role for the deliveries of the 787 components from around the globe to Everett for final assembly.

Hence, wouldn't that be great if the Dreamlifters are given an equivalent amount of credits?

Kinbin (Taipei, Taiwan):

First off, kudos to Randy T. for keeping this blog up. I have met many blokes from Boeing but not Randy T. Maybe I will get to see him at the roll-out on 7/8 at Everett.

Nah, then again, there will be swarms of potential and existing customers buzzing round him.

The Dreamlifter, in everyday lingo, is a utility air-"ride" truck. No different than taking an old '69 Ford Torino (remember those?), overhaul the 302 engine, juice up with shocks and springs, cut off the top and make it look like a F250 to haul oversized logs.

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