Boeing's first passenger 747-8 Intercontinental has entered wing body join and systems installation, one assembly step prior to mating the fuselage sections to create the worlds longest passenger aircraft.
The company's first 467-seat 747-8I, RC001, the first of two flight test aircraft, is currently having its wings mated to the centre wing box and covered with Section 44, a crescent-shaped bonnet structure that makes up the crown of the fuselage.
Following the wing-to-body join, RC001 will move into the final body join position and have its forward fuselage - including its iconic upper deck - mated to the wings and aft fuselage, a process expected to begin in mid-October.
Once complete, the aircraft will advance to the first slant position at the front of the 747 final assembly line inside Building 40-22, one of six assembly bays that house the airframer's widebody production at its Everett, Washington facility.
At slant one, RC001 will undergo power-on, a step-by-step activation of the aircraft's electrical systems to verify proper power distribution.
Once assembled it will be 76.25m (250ft 2in) long, eclipsing the 75.3m (247ft 1in) Airbus A340-600 by 0.95m and making the 747-8I the longest commercial jet.
The 747-8 is a 5.6m (18.3ft) stretch of the 747-400, and includes a new supercritical new wing, four General Electric GEnx-2B67 engines, fly-by-wire ailerons and spoilers, and updated Honeywell avionics.
Progress on the final body join continues to advance while Boeing is completing a schedule assessment of its 747-8 freighter, which is currently set to enter service with Cargolux by the end of the year, although that date is virtually certain to slip well into 2011.
The airframer has largely addressed two key issues that have buckled the freighter's schedule: a limit cycle oscillation of the inboard aileron, which has been resolved, and a 2.4Hz structural flutter that occurs at a mid-weight near cruise speed.
Boeing is testing a fix for the flutter with a technique the company has dubbed the 'outboard aileron modal suppression system' or OAMS, an engineering law that is designed to dampen the flutter and improve the stability and control of the aircraft.
Boeing says an review of the 747-8I schedule was not included in the 747-8F assessment. But the company declined to say whether or not an -8I schedule alteration of any kind would be disclosed when its latest -8F schedule was released.
It has slated the first quarter of 2011 for roll-out and first flight of the -8I, with a first delivery of a production VIP-configured aircraft to a completion centre in the fourth quarter. Lufthansa, the first of two airlines to take the -8I, will receive its first in early 2012.