The first Boeing 787 wings will be flown from Nagoya, Japan to Everett in the USA in the coming weeks, with the US airframe manufacturer insisting that the production schedule for the fastest-selling aircraft in history is on schedule.
The first 787 is to be rolled out on 8 July and the first flight will be a few weeks later, Boeing says. Delivery of the first 787 is scheduled for mid-2008 to launch customer All Nippon Airways.
There are concerns that Boeing could be afflicted by delays similar to those that have plagued the Airbus A380, which will be more than a year and a half overdue if delivered to Singapore Airlines as planned in October. But Boeing and its Japanese partners said at a joint event in Japan that they remain confident that the targets can be met.
“We’re at the final stage of completing the first wings,” says Takashi Fujimoto, head of 787 production at Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
Employees at MHI’s plant in Nagoya are conducting final checks on the mainly composite wings, which are being shaped in a specially designed 40m autoclave. Around mid-May the wings will make the 10hr journey to Everett on a Boeing Large Cargo Freighter (LCF).
The three Japanese majors, MHI, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), collectively account for 35% of the 787 structure. The first forward fuselages and main landing gear wells, which KHI produces, and the centre wing box, which FHI produces, were delivered earlier this year.
Boeing’s director of 787 production in Japan, Christer Hellstrand, is impressed with the trio’s work. The companies first partnered Boeing on the 767, accounting for 15% of the structure, and were then responsible for 20% of the 777. That led to the confidence that that they would deliver on the 787 as well, says Hellstrand.
“They were in charge of almost all design and engineering work and have done a great job on a challenging project,” he adds.
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in February that engineering and manufacturing assistance was being sent to Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica and the Japanese partners to aid their structural work.
Boeing’s executive in charge of global partners, Robert Noble, says this is due to a change in requirements. “It was necessary as the companies moved from the design to the production phase,” he says, adding that adjustments have been made for any delays in the production schedule.
Looking ahead, the Japanese majors say they can keep up with higher production rates as the delivery schedule speeds up. All plan to invest in infrastructure and increase the number of employees dedicated to the project from later in 2007.
Boeing says there have been more than 500 orders for the 787 since April 2007 and it plans to deliver more than 100 aircraft in 2008 and 2009.