A buzz has been floating through Everett these last few days. An excitement not felt since the July 2007 roll out of Dreamliner One. In the evening hours on the 10th of February a modified 747-400 touched down after its brief journey from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas.
On board was a payload both significant for its level of completion and what it represents for the future of the 787 program. Under a cold, wet and cloudy Washington sky, a parcel of progress found its way into Building 40-36 at the Boeing plant in Everett.
The precious cargo was the nose section for Dreamliner Two, which is destined to be the second 787 to take to the skies.
The nose structure (Section 41), which was manufactured by Spirit Aerosystems, arrived largely complete, stuffed with its windows, windshield wipers, doors, ducting, wiring, insulation, flight deck bulkhead, significant flight deck structure and much more. All flight deck equipment, such as panels, controls and LCD screens are installed in Everett. Section 41 also shipped with its radome installed to protect the honeycomb radar that had already been installed underneath.
The completed statement of work of Dreamliner Two is the first opportunity to better demonstrate the potential behind the global assembly model for the 787 program. The arrival of structures for Dreamliner Two mark the first time parts intended for flight have arrived for a 787 since April and May of last year. It is also the first opportunity for all assembly teams to undertake the complete work package in the sequence Boeing intended for its 787s.
The level of completion of the nose section even caught those in the factory off guard, "Just wow. Everyone is stunned," remarked one engineer.
The final section of Dreamliner Two arrived the following afternoon. The center fuselage was flown from Charleston to Everett where it joined other major components on the factory floor.
The center fuselage section is made up of four major sections: The center wing box and landing gear well (Section 45/11), one forward barrel (Section 43), one aft barrel (Section 46), and one half barrel that is attached on top of the center wing box (Section 44). The four sections, which are fabricated by Italian and Japanese manufacturers, are integrated at the Global Aeronautica facility in Charleston, SC.
The level of completion of the center fuselage of Dreamliner Two stands in significant contrast to what arrived last spring for Dreamliner One. The 84-foot long structure was delivered with much of the flight test wiring, forward wing-to-body fairing, doors and air conditioning packs installed. The forward 43 section sports much of the necessary ducting, wiring and insulation.
The aft fuselage structure for Dreamliner Two, the 47 and 48 Sections, which are fabricated and assembled by Vought Aircraft Industries next to the Global Aeronautica facility in Charleston, arrived in Everett three weeks ago.
The 39-foot long barrel will require the most traveled work of the fuselage sections and underscores the challenges that still lay ahead for Boeing on the 787 program. Even with the work left to be completed on the aft fuselage, the structure itself is the most complete statement of work that has come out of the Vought facility in the Palmetto State to date.
The wings for Dreamliner Two have been in the factory for almost two weeks undergoing pre-integration work. They will be mated to the center wing box when the final body join gets underway in the coming weeks. Work has been progressing steadily toward installing flight control surfaces, pylons and wing systems. The most notable improvements on the wings are found in the level of completion of the leading and trailing edges, as well as the quality and quantity of permanent fasteners. According to one source the fasteners represent a "world of difference" over previous wing sets.
According to Senior 787 Program leadership, "Fully complete and stuffed sections are expected to arrive from some partners starting with Airplane 5." Though not fully stuffed, "The condition of assembly (COA) of the sections for Airplane 2 is significantly better than the COA for Airplane 1, static and fatigue."
Both the nose and center fuselage structures have been moved forward to Building 40-26 and have been loaded into the tooling at assembly station one. Assembly stations two, three and four are occupied by the Fatigue Airframe, Static Airframe and Dreamliner One respectively. This marks the first time in the 787 program that all four assembly stations are in use at the Final Assembly & Delivery facility.
The not-yet-assembled Dreamliner Two is significantly farther along than Dreamliner One, according to several sources who have worked with both, raising the chances that Dreamliner Two will be the first 787 to take to the skies later this year. Dreamliner One is being readied for power on and first flight more than a quarter mile down the assembly line in the massive Everett factory.