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Boeing starts assembly of 787 Dreamliner
By Daisuke Wakabayashi in Everett, Washington
Article from: Reuters,23483,21774732-27977,00.html

New era ... Boeing has begun assembly of its first all-new plane in more
than a decade. The company claims that production of the Dreamliner 787
will revolutionise the way airplanes are built.
Picture: Reuters

BOEING Co. began assembly of its upcoming 787 Dreamliner today and unveiled a manufacturing method that aims to speed up production times and reduce the number of parts used.

In building the company's first all-new plane in more than a decade, Boeing has changed everything from what materials it uses to how it constructs the 787, which is slated for its first test flight in late August and delivery next May.
Boeing has outsourced most of the 787's manufacturing to firms in Japan, Italy, the US state of South Carolina and elsewhere, while the company itself is concentrating on putting the plane together at its cavernous main facility in Everett, near the west coast US city of Seattle.

The main body of the plane will arrive at Boeing's assembly plant in six large pieces where they will be joined together within a hulking structure called the "MOATT" – mother of all tool towers – in a process its employees call the "big bang."

"The 787 not only will revolutionize air travel, it represents a new way of building airplanes," said Scott Strode, Boeing vice president of airplane development and production on the 787 program.

The mid-sized jet, which will seat up to 330 people, is the first commercial plane whose fuselage and wings are predominantly made of carbon-composite materials rather than aluminium.

Boeing has said the aim is to make a lighter, more fuel-efficient plane that does not corrode or fatigue. It will have larger windows and promises more humid air in the cabin, a big draw for jetlag-weary passengers.

Since its launch in April 2004, Boeing has racked up 568 orders from 44 customers, making it the most successful plane launch in Boeing's history.

The company is hoping to avoid the kind of costly and embarrassing production delays that hit rival Airbus' flagship A380 superjumbo.

When asked what worries him the most about the 787, Boeing's Strode said "time." Boeing said the first 787 will roll out of the factory on July 8, 2007.

Boeing said it will take about seven weeks to assemble the first plane. By the 100th plane, the company expects to lower that to six days and, ultimately, Boeing said a new 787 will roll out of its factory every three days.

By comparison, Boeing said it takes an average of 14 weeks for the 777 to move out the factory door because much of the manufacturing is done by the company.

The new assembly method will reduce the number of parts by around 50 percent and will replace many large monolithic tool structures for portable tools, according to Boeing. The line also will not use any overhead cranes to move the airplane.

The composite wings arrived from Nagoya, Japan, last week. They were flown to Seattle in Boeing's specially adapted 747 jumbo freighter, which it calls the Dreamlifter.

Also last week Boeing took delivery of the main fuselage which was joined together in South Carolina by Global Aeronautica.

Engines for the plane are being built by General Electric Co. and Britain's Rolls-Royce Plc.

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Way to cool! The fastest selling plane in history, overtaking even the old venerables of the 707 and 747. The new 777's will be interesting to see also, these are going to be modelled on the 787 in terms of composites and with the idea of being major hub busters. Will make life difficult for Airbus in the short term (no bad thing), and maybe they will finally pull their finger out and start deliverying some quality jets.
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