The first 787 Dreamliner, which Boeing rolled out with great fanfare July 8, is now sitting in the assembly bay in Everett missing big structural pieces though Boeing says its first flight is just over a month away.
The airplane on display in July appeared complete on the outside. But it was a partially empty shell, and its engines, vertical tail fin and doors were dismantled after the rollout ceremony to allow installation of systems and interiors that had been left undone.
Now mechanics are working long hours, clambering over scaffolding that surrounds the plane to complete the installation and reassembly work.
And one report suggests the Everett scramble could have a domino effect down the supply chain.
Boeing confirmed soon after rollout that its mechanics had removed structural pieces of the airframe, also including the landing gear, the leading edges of the wings and horizontal tail, and the wingtwo-body fairing.
Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson said Monday the tail is still off, but otherwise declined to comment on the airplane's current state of completion.
Reports from visitors to Everett suggest mechanics still haven't reattached most of those pieces.
Executives had conceded in advance that the first Dreamliner would be unfinished at the time of the rollout.
According to trade magazine Aviation Week, even the flight deck was missing at rollout.
Hanson said the Dreamliner is still expected to fly for the first time around the end of September.
Jon Ostrower, who runs an aviation Web site called Flightblogger flightblogger.blogspot.com, posted a story late Monday citing unnamed sources who said the delay in finishing Dreamliner No. 1 is creating a "bottleneck" that is holding up delivery to Everett of sections for the subsequent airplanes.
Ostrower said Boeing has told its partners to hold deliveries of more sections until it gets out of the way the two 787s in the Everett assembly bay the first flying airplane and the one behind it that will be used for a static test.
The bottleneck could stall the rollout of the second airplane for the test-flight program and potentially delay the 787's certification and entry into service, Ostrower said.
In response, Hanson said Boeing's partners have indeed been told to "re-look" at the delivery dates of the sections they are building, with an eye to delaying shipments.
But this is only so that the pieces can arrive in more completed form and require less work in Everett, as called for in the longtime Boeing plan, she said.
"It doesn't have anything to do with Airplane One," Hanson said. "Having the assemblies come into Everett in better condition ultimately could streamline the assembly process here. We see this as goodness."
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplier says Boeing may boost production
Boeing may decide to increase production of its new 787 Dreamliner to 10 per month from seven "in the next few weeks," Finmeccanica General Manager Giorgio Zappa said in an interview.
"I believe it will make this decision in the next few weeks, and we have already started with the pre-project phase of our investment," Zappa said Monday in Rimini, Italy.
Finmeccanica, Italy's largest aerospace and defense company, has agreed to provide seven fuselages a month for the 787 and may increase its production because of the success of the plane.
Boeing is working with suppliers to determine how many 787s can be built to meet demand.