PICTURE: Boeing's Everett plant gears up for switch to 747-8 production

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Airframer revamps assembly line at plant near Seattle as it prepares to migrate production from -400 to new variant

Boeing is preparing the ground at its Everett plant near Seattle for the start of assembly of the first 747-8F, as production winds down of the current 747-400 series.

Production of 747 is now averaging around two a month. Boeing has 14 more 747-400s to deliver with the last - a -400F for LoadAir Cargo - due to enter final assembly in July, with delivery scheduled by early in the second quarter of next year.

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This will be the last of 1,419 747-400s and Classics to be built (including the 747-100 development aircraft that was never delivered) as production at Everett switches to the stretched 747-8, which is 5.6m (18.4ft) longer than the -400 and has a 4m greater span.

Assembly of the first 747-8F is due to begin in the third quarter of this year and roll out in "the first part of 2009", says Boeing, with delivery to launch customer Cargolux due late next year.

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 © Boeing
The trenches are being lengthened and widened to accommodate the larger 747-8

Boeing has just passed 75% design release on the -8F, with the 90% mark expected by August. The new variant will retain the existing 747 assembly line philosophy rather than the moving line adopted for the 777 next door at Everett and the 737 being built at the Renton plant. "We're in the process of updating the slant positions on the assembly line for the 747-8," says Boeing.

"The trenches are being lengthened and widened to accommodate the larger 747-8," adds the airframer. "The hydraulic, electrical and air systems in the trenches have also been upgraded."

All the systems installation work for the 747-8 will be located in one bay, whereas previously the work was split between two. Boeing has also introduced a new spar tool which is being located on the factory floor in the 747 factory.

It had been intended to integrate assembly of the last -400Fs with the first -8Fs, but a delay to the start of production of the latter means all existing models will be built before the switch to the new model. "This will eliminate a lot of the risks as we will not be switching between sizes," says Boeing.

Aircraft profile: Boeing 747