Boeing's big project for this year is to get a dream project off the ground--literally. The aviation giant's first is scheduled to emerge from the factory on July 8, with a first flight anticipated for later in the summer. This is Boeing's first all-new airplane in about a decade.
On Monday, Boeing touted its last big step along the way: the opening of the Everett, Wash., final-assembly facility for the 787. The plane is being assembled there from large composite structures from various worldwide partners, rather than many smaller components. The nose--section 41--was built by Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kan. The first 787 will take weeks to complete; eventually, Boeing expects to churn out a new plane every three days.
A side view of the 787 shows the composite structures loaded into the first position for final assembly.
Boeing says the Dreamliner will bring big-jet ranges to midsize airplanes--up to 8,500 nautical miles for the 787-9. The plane is expected to be able to reach speeds of Mach 0.85, comparable to that for a 777 or 747, but also be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than planes of similar size. That fuel economy stems in part from the generous use of carbon composite materials.
How do you get big airplane pieces from one part of the country to another? With an even bigger airplane.
To get to Everett from Charleston, S.C., where it was assembled by Global Aeronautica, this big piece--the integrated midbody fuselage--took a ride in a modified 747-400 dubbed the Dreamlifter. The midbody fuselage consists of a forward fuselage section; two center fuselage sections; and the center wheel well and center wing tank. That composite structure measures 84 feet long and 19 feet in diameter, and it got into the 747-400 with all of six inches of clearance all around.
When it's all put together and cruising at altitude, here's what the 787 Dreamliner is supposed to look like. True, it doesn't look all that different from other passenger aircraft, but note the curvy design flourish at the wingtip. Among the latest customers to order 787s are the Middle East airline Royal Jordanian and Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau, who's ponying up approximately $153 million for a VIP version of the Dreamliner. (For a look at the VIP version of the new 747-8, see "".)
Other takers so far include Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Air Canada. All told, it's the fastest-selling new aircraft ever, Boeing says. The company expects the plane to make its entry into service in 2008.
Earlier this year, when Boeing unveiled the interior of the 747-8, it also showed off this mockup of the 787 cabin. (For more photos of the 747-8's inner spaces, see ".") The number of seats in the 787 will range from 210 to 330, depending on the model.
Among the creature comforts that the company is touting for passengers: higher humidity.