Boeing prepares 787-9 components

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Boeing South Carolina this summer will build a pre-production verification (PPV) prototype of the aft-section of the Boeing 787-9 as the company works toward an expected first or second quarter 2014 entry-into-service (EIS) with Air New Zealand for the stretched, longer-range sibling to the 787-8.

The 787-9 will hold up to 290 passengers, from 250 for the 787-8, by lengthening the fuselage 6m (20ft) with an extension at the rear of mid-body section 43 and an extension forward of mid-body section 46.

The Charleston plant builds and joins sections 47 and 48, the aft portion of the 787-8, keeping a portion in house for the Charleston final assembly line and shipping the other finished barrels to Everett via the 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter (LCF). The facility also assembles all 787 mid-bodies, largely from the sections 43-46 made in Italy and Japan and delivered to Charleston with the LCF.

Matt Borland, director of aft-body assembly in Charleston, says the PPV will be completed this summer and will be tested to determine the "quality of the barrel". He expects to begin spinning the first production composite barrel in the fourth quarter and assembling the first aft-body structure beginning in 2013. The first production 787-9 will be Airplane 126, Borland says.

Boeing Charleston mid-body building manager Willy Geary says "about this time next year" his facility will be making the first 787-9 mid-body. He notes that the 6m extension will use up all available space in the LCF for mid-bodies shipped to Everett, meaning a further fuselage extension for a 787-10 model would have to be made in a different portion of the aircraft to continue using the LCF for transfers to Everett.

Boeing has not yet decided whether to launch the 787-10, which would hold between 290-310 passengers.