BOEING WAS DUE to begin building the first 767 freighter on 6 January at its Everett assembly site, with work scheduled to start on the front spar of the wing. The cargo floor will also be "loaded" on to production jigs one week later.

The aircraft will be the first of 60 on order and option for United Parcel Service (UPS) and will be rolled out on 5 May, with certification expected in early October.

The first five 767-300Fs will be delivered to UPS by the end of the year. Two freighters a month will be dovetailed into the production of airliner versions, although "...we could go to three", if needed, says 767 freighter programme manager John Quinlivan.

To make sure that production of the new freighter does not interrupt the smooth flow of passenger types, tooling people, planners and engineers will be on site during assembly to check on the work.

"They will quickly transfer information to people who don't have to guess at what was on the designer's mind a year before," says Quinlivan. Apart from giving the specialists good experience before moving on to other projects, Quinlivan says, that the scheme will make assembly "goof-proof".

Approximately 91% of the design has now been "released" to production. "It's crunch time, we've got to finish the engineering, but we've already started seeing parts coming together," Quinlivan adds.

Major fuselage assemblies built in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries will be delivered in January and early February. Final reviews of the first nose section (section 41) were expected to have been completed at Wichita, Kansas, by the end of December. The final body join of the major sub-assemblies is scheduled to take place around 12 April.

Flight tests will focus on "environmental conditions", says 767 freighter chief engineer, David Anderson. "The single most important areas will be in smoke detection, the smoke seal between the cargo compartment and the cockpit and the balance of the air-conditioning system."

Planning is also well in hand for the general-market freighter version, 13% of which has been released to production.

That model differs from the UPS aircraft in having a powered cargo-handling system, a more sophisticated galley and the ability to carry perishable cargo. The first of two general freighters for Asiana Airlines will be delivered in June 1996, with the second following in June 1998.

Boeing predicts that a market exists for more than 600 767 freighters as Boeing 707 and McDonnell Douglas DC-8 replacements. The aircraft will be able to carry 54t over 6,000km (3,270nm) or 45.5t over 7,850km.

Source: Flight International