Boeing received its 15th 787 centre fuselage on 5 January, marking the arrival of the last centre wing box requiring a full side-of-body modification and reinforcement that will be completed at the company's Everett, Washington facility.
Boeing announced in August that starting with Airplane 16, the centre wing box - built by Fuji Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan - will be modified at the company's Charleston, South Carolina site during integration prior to shipment.
While Boeing has not specifically detailed the nature of the side-of-body reinforcement, it is believed that a U-shaped cutout is removed from the 17 stringers on either side of the wing and centre wing box, while fittings - 34 altogether - are installed to reinforce the area where the stringer meets the top wing skin on both the section 11 centre wing box and section 12 wing box.
Currently, the U-shaped cut-out and fitting installation is particularly labour intensive, as it is performed once the wing is joined and is located in an extremely tight area inside a crawl space where the wing meets the centre wing box at the side-of-body of the aircraft.
Starting with Airplane 16, the stringer cutout and fitting installation on section 11 will be performed at Boeing Charleston, while the section 12 wing box modifications will become a regular part of the final assembly process rather than installed as an additional modification following final assembly.
Programme sources say the modification process to the centre wing box on Airplane 16 is likely to be incomplete at the time of shipment due to the amount of time required to complete the modification without disrupting the production flow of final assembly operations, while Airplane 17 will be ready upon arrival when the fittings will be installed during the final assembly process.
This process will be done through Airplane 49, and phased out with Airplane 50, when a new join is expected to be introduced, add the same sources.
Boeing announced 23 June that it postponed plans to fly the 787 at the close of that month, citing the need to reinforce the side-of-body area where the composite wing and centre wing box meet. After adding an additional six month delay to two years of delays, Boeing flew its first 787 on 15 December 2009.
The centre fuselage is integrated at the Boeing Charleston facility, where four structural sections - two from Italy and two from Japan - are joined and stuffed with systems, wiring, ducting and insulation before being shipped to final assembly.