The making of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner (photos)

The first delivery of the Dreamliner is months away, and Boeing is busy making the planes. And CNET sees the 777 line as well.


Daniel Terdiman

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787 close-up

EVERETT, Wash.--On July 8, 2007, Boeing formally unveiled its 787 Dreamliner, promising to get passengers on the plane less than a year later. Of course, as has been well chronicled since then, the 787 has been beset by delays and is more than three years behind schedule.

Still, the plane has long since taken its first flight, and Boeing now says it plans the first customer delivery sometime in the third quarter of this year. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but it's clear that the program is in its final stages before the Dreamliner becomes something that the flying public can experience first hand.

In the meantime, Boeing is continuing to build Dreamliners at its mammoth assembly plant here. Currently under construction at the plant are Dreamliner Nos. 31 through 34. And though there are currently seven test 787s, the ones being built today are being warehoused after being put together until the plane is certified for passenger flight. At that point, Boeing will finish the interiors of the planes and add their engines.

As the conclusion to three days of Boeing events highlighted by the unveiling of its next-generation 747-8 Intercontinental, the aviation giant brought a group of media to the Everett plant yesterday for a tour of both the 787 and the 777 production lines.

This is 787 Dreamliner No. 31--which is being built for launch customer All Nippon Airways.

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787 Full body

This 787 Dreamliner is the 31st that Boeing is building. It is the 12th Boeing is building for its launch customer, All Nippon Airways.
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Two 787s

A look out at the 787 Dreamliner assembly line. Boeing says it can produce about two Dreamliners per month right now, though by late 2013, when its new South Carolina plant is open, it should be able to make ten of the planes each month.
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787 wing

One of the most striking features of the 787 Dreamliner is its wing. Made from composite materials, the wings are longer and have a higher aspect ratio than those on other airplanes. That means that they provide more lift with less drag. The wings are lighter and stiffer than those on other planes.
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Curved wingtip

This is the 787 Dreamliner's distinctive curved wingtip.
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No engine

This is a look at the left wing of a Dreamliner under assembly. Because the plane has not yet been certified for passenger flight, the planes coming off the line now do not have their engines added. Those will be added after the plane is certified.
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Wing section join

This is a look at the section of the body of a 787 Dreamliner where the wings are joined to the fuselage. Because Dreamliners are made of composite materials, they are not made in the traditional way, using many body panels. Instead, they are made from complete barrel sections.
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Close-up of wing joint area

This is a close-up of the joint between the wing and the fuselage.
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Cockpit covered

This is a look at Dreamliner No. 34, which currently has the windows of its cockpit completely covered up.
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ANA tail

While the Dreamliners coming off the line are not being painted with customers' livery, the rudder section of the tails are painted. That's because the weight of the paint must be taken into consideration when balancing the rudder.
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Front section

This is a look at the front section of a 787 Dreamliner on the assembly line.
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Position 1

This Dreamliner is at what is called position 1. This is where the plane, having come into the Everett factory and rested for 24 hours to normalize the temperature of all the parts, is placed inside equipment that allows the factory to structurally join all the major body pieces.
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On the plant floor, dozens of cubicles are located adjacent to the assembly line.
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Body joint

Here, we see a section of a 787 Dreamliner where two main pieces of the fuselage are joined. The body is painted with white primer, over which the customer's livery will eventually be added.
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Product Integration Center

A view of the Dreamliner Product Integration Center, where personnel work around the clock to make sure that assembly of the planes goes as planned.
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787 and 777 lines

From a spot on a balcony high above the assembly lines, it is possible to see both the 787 Dreamliner and the 777 lines.
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777 whole body

This Boeing 777--being built for Qatar Airways--is in final assembly. It takes about 52 days to build a 777, and Boeing works on four 777s at a time.
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Inside the 777

A look inside the incomplete fuselage of a 777.
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777 in 2 sections

A look at a 777 that is currently in two main sections.
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A look at the tail of a 777 that Boeing is currently building for Turkish Airlines.
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777 engine open

Here, we see a 777 engine that is still being worked on.
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Finishing the engine

Boeing workers put the finishing touches on the engine.
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Landing gears

On the assembly line floor, airplane parts are located just about everywhere you look. Here, we see sets of landing gears for a plane that is currently being built.

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