THE final body join of the first Boeing 777-300 fuselage, the longest airliner built to date, was accomplished at around 1.30am on 21 July at Boeing's Everett, Washington, site.

The completed aircraft will be 73.8m in length, or around 3.4m longer than the 747. Despite the structural changes made to the aircraft, including a new centre body (Section 43), the "-join has come together just like the first -200", says Liz Otis, director of the 777 manufacturing business unit.

The longer fuselage incorporates a ten-frame (5.3m) plug forward of the wing and a nine-frame (4.8m) plug aft of the wing. The new centre section is also fitted with an additional Type A exit door and emergency evacuation slide over the wing.

Completion of the first -300, line number 94, which is a Rolls-Royce Trent-powered example for Cathay Pacific Airways, comes as 777 production moves to an aircraft coming off the line every three working days.

The aircraft underwent ground-vibration tests on 24 July and will be fitted out for factory roll-out on the 25 August. The painted aircraft will be formally rolled out as the first test aircraft, WB501, at a ceremony on 8 September. The second test -300, WB502, will undergo final body join in mid-August and all five test aircraft will be delivered to the Boeing Field test site in Washington by the end of the year.

American Airlines has cut its initial Boeing 777 order by five aircraft to seven -200IGWs following Boeing's delay to implement the -200X/300X programmes. Boeing had counted the 12 orders in its backlog, and the revision explains the five "cancellations" suffered during the first half of 1997 (Flight International, 23-29 July, P7).

Source: Flight International