Boeing's preparations for the installation of the 787 side-of-body modification are advancing as more details emerge about the challenge the airframer faces to gain access and incorporate the fix. Meanwhile, the pace of production continues to accelerate.

The 787 static test airframe, on which the problems were first discovered, is being prepared for modification, programme sources confirm. Once installed, the wings will again undergo flex testing to validate the static strength of the new structure.

Boeing engineers and assembly crews will face a challenge to install the reinforcement as the working area is significantly constrained, and has been described by programme sources as a series of "interconnected phone booths laying on their side".

The area of repair is centred on two areas on both sides of the aircraft. The upper structure of both Section 11 (centre wingbox) and Section 12 (wingbox) will be reinforced where they meet at the side of the body.

On the Section 12 side of the fix, crews will work inside a roughly 5m (16ft)-long space at the wing root, less than 2m high and about 1m wide. The areas on the top of these "phone booths" requiring reinforcement are 17I-beam stringers on Section 12 and another 18 on Section 11. They are tight, providing just 7-10cm (3-4in) clearance from the top skin of the wing.

Preparations for the first two 787s differ from the other four flight-test aircraft because their working areas inside the centre fuel tank had been fully closed out and fuelled for engine runs.

Meanwhile, Boeing continues to increase the pace of section deliveries to the Everett assembly line. Final assembly of the eighth aircraft (ZA101) is under way, although the upper panels of the final body join, sources say, will be done in an incomplete way to allow easier access for the modification work.

The Section 11 part of the fix is expected to be incorporated at Global Aeronautica's plant in Charleston, South Carolina, from the fifteenth aircraft. Section 12 modifications will continue to be completed in Everett as aspects of the modification require all structures to be in place for the wing-to-body join process, sources say.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news