Boeing presses forward with 747 upgrades

Washington DC
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Despite programme delays Boeing is pushing forward with 747 upgrades to support delivery of the first freighter aircraft in the second half of 2010.

The airframer says it has three forward fuselages in various stages of integration, and the forward section 41 of the first 747-8 Freighter is farthest along as the aircraft approaches commencement of the final assembly process.

The 747 line is home to mostly 787s as of late, with the final 747-400F closest to the door in the slant position. Further into the factory, the fatigue test 787 and third test flight aircraft are being competed.

While these aircraft are occupying the line, section 41 for the first 747-8F slated for delivery to Luxembourg's Cargolux, is being held two bays down in Building 40-23.

Boeing has parts for four sets of wings in work as well, with the port wing of the first aircraft currently being sealed and tested, while the starboard wing was being completed.

Boeing plans to build three 747-8F aircraft to support the flight test programme, which is set to begin in the fourth quarter. First delivery is scheduled for the third quarter of 2010.

For the passenger version of its new jumbo, Boeing will build two 747-8I aircraft to support certification. The airframer announced 27 April that it had reached the 25% design release milestone for the aircraft. A Boeing spokesperson said on 30 April that the company expects to be at 90% design release by the end of 2009.

Boeing announced a further delay to the 747-8I program on 22 April, citing softening cargo demand and the subsequent postponement of a planned production ramp up of the new jumbo. The second programme delay, pushed the aircraft's entry into service with a Middle Eastern VIP customer three-to-six months into the fourth quarter of 2011.