The nose section is expected to be flown to Everett "within a couple of weeks" aboard the Boeing 747LCF Dreamlifter, says the company. The initial production unit will be followed by the static test nose section. Subsequent deliveries will include the fatigue test specimen, which is also nearing completion.
"Together with the static and fatigue units we have seven in the line right now," says Spirit 787 Section 41 factory director Forrest Urban. The sixth production section is meanwhile just entering "lay up" in which the automated tape machines begin winding the composite tape around the mandril to begin the assembly process.
For the first time on any Wichita-built unit, the section also incorporates the nose landing gear as well as tubes and ducting for several systems. Upcoming deliveries will also include avionics in the forward electronic equipment bay, though Spirit declines to say when these fully "pre-stuffed" shipments will begin. The sections also include pre-loaded cabin floors and related systems.
New design details revealed for the first time at the roll-out include the domed forward bulkhead. The structure, made from aluminium, "was designed to save weight, and is shaped to be more absorbent" and "act like a trampoline" in the event of a birdstrike, says John Pilla, Spirit's vice-president and general manager, 787.
Spirit, together with Boeing, earlier built three development fuselage sections dubbed composite one piece barrels. Two of these were shortened cockpit sections, while the third was representative of the 40ft long Section 41 production unit.
Read more about the Boeing 787's roll-out
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Boeing's 787 page