Boeing aims to enable its 787 customers to define their cabin specifications as little as six months before aircraft delivery - down from around a year - following the opening of its Dreamliner Gallery at Everett near Seattle earlier this year.

"We're targeting a shorter lead time," says Boeing Dreamliner Gallery technical manager Mark Larson. By around the time of the 200th 787 delivery, "we're going to be down to something like six months", he adds.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner cockpit

"The process until today had been to go to the airline - now we are asking the customers to come here. There has been a three-quarters reduction in the number of options in the cabin, and an 89% reduction in options on flightdeck avionics," he says.

In the six months since the 5,000m2 (54,000ft2) Dreamliner Gallery opened, 15 airlines have passed through its doors to configure their passenger cabins, crew rest areas and cockpits, and all but two of their 32 selections of passenger seats have been for pre-certificated designs listed in Boeing's catalogue, says Larson.

 Crew rest area

The catalogue offers a choice of around 50 galley complexes, many of which can be inspected at the gallery.

A dedicated "light lab" comprising a 4.88m (16ft)-long section of cabin will come on line "within two weeks" says Larson, now that production-standard cabin mood-lighting is being made available by Germany's Diehl Aerospace, and a 26.2m-long section of cabin mock-up is due to be installed at the site by the end of August.

Meanwhile a three-dimensional cabin configuration software tool called "eConfig" is in beta testing and is due for release by the end of the year.

 Dreamliner passenger seats

This will enable airlines to evaluate their own "virtual" 787 cabin designs at their home bases, which can then be automatically integrated with engineering drawings.

The new approach to specifying cabins cannot be adopted for legacy 7-series aircraft or future derivatives such as the 747-8, says Larson, but the Dreamliner Gallery has sufficient space to host an equivalent facility for the future all-new 737 replacement.

The 787 provided a "phenomenal opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper", says Larson.

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