Boeing S.C. workers rolled the aft- and midbody sections of the plane into the final assembly building last Wednesday, marking a development milestone for the dash-10.
Now the work begins to conjoin the aft section, or the back of the plane, and the midbody, or middle part of the plane, with the front fuselage and wings. Other final assembly work — finishing interior and exterior work, turning the power on and performing production tests — will take place in the building.
The 787-10 is the first Boeing jet to be solely produced and assembled in North Charleston. The jet’s midbody section is 18 feet longer than the 787-9 — too large for parts to be transported on the Dreamlifter, the company’s modified 747 jumbo jet.
Boeing S.C. workers make the aft- and midbody sections for all Dreamliners, and North Charleston and Everett, Wash., share assembly of the 787-8 and -9.
The first 787-10 plane is one of three dash-10 jets destined to remain with Boeing for test flights rather than be delivered to an airline customer.
Boeing has 154 orders for the newest and longest Dreamliner from nine customers globally: Air France-KLM Group, Air Lease Corp., All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Etihad Airways, EVA Airways, GE Capital Aviation Services, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
Singapore Airlines will be the first to receive a 787-10 delivery.
"As we enter the next phase of the 787-10's development, we eagerly watch our first airplane come to life," said Ken Sanger, vice president and general manager of 787 airplane development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in the release.
The first 787-10 is expected to fly in 2017 and first delivery to a customer is scheduled for 2018. Boeing officials declined to share any other timeline details, citing competitive reasons.
Uresh Sheth, an aerospace analyst who runs the All Things 787 blog, expects the jet to roll out of final assembly in January and the first flight to occur in February.
“I suspect it’ll be a little longer to build and roll out than a production 787-9, given that there’ll be some testing done inside” the final assembly building, Sheth wrote.
Sheth said Boeing will send 787-8 and -9 final assembly work to Everett in the meantime, rather than splitting the work between the sites this month.
“This is to ensure smooth, continuous 787 production in case there are issue(s) that come up with testing and assembly of the first 787-10 that may interfere with 787 production,” Sheth wrote, noting that the next 787 will likely enter final assembly in Charleston around Dec. 19.
Boeing spokeswoman Cheryl Harden said in an email that the production timeline will be similar for 787-10s as it is for 787-8s and 787-9s.
“Build flow times have been adjusted slightly for the first few 787-10 to allow additional time for lessons learned,” Harden said.
The 787-10 has about 95% design and build commonality with the 787-9, except for the 787-10’s longer fuselage. The similarities will help throughout the build process, and the differences require a stronger wing, fuselage and associated system changes, Harden said.
Training and processes have remained mostly the same for the 787-10 plane.
“We are implementing the improvements made on the 787-9 and the lessons we learned with both the 787-8 and -9 to create this newest member of the 787 family,” Harden said.
Once assembled, the jet will undergo months of test flights at the company’s testing center in Seattle. It will be painted at Boeing S.C.’s new, 400,000-square-foot paint hangar, which is nearing completion on International Boulevard in North Charleston. Planes are currently flown to suppliers across the country for painting.