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Originally published September 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 11, 2005 at 10:13 AM

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Boeing 787: Parts from around world will be swiftly integrated

This month, Boeing plans to announce that the main features of the 787 airplane design are complete — signaling that the work of designing...

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

This month, Boeing plans to announce that the main features of the 787 airplane design are complete — signaling that the work of designing detailed parts moves from Everett to the company's global partners.

Much of the detail design will be done by the partners who will later build the components — overseas suppliers in Japan, Italy, Korea and Britain; U.S. suppliers in Texas, South Carolina, California, Oklahoma and Kansas; and Boeing subsidiary sites in Australia, Canada and Russia.

Of the airplane's structural parts, only the vertical fin will be made in the Puget Sound area. The rest will come in via road, rail, ship and, most spectacularly, aboard three specially converted 747s sporting a strange bulbous top.

Once the 787 enters service in 2008, those special air freighters — designed with help from the Boeing engineering center in Moscow and converted in Taiwan — will become commonplace in the skies above Everett as they ferry in giant pieces of the 787 for assembly.

The attached graphics show the global logistics plan for manufacturing the 787 airframe, based on internal Boeing documents obtained by The Seattle Times. The graphic covers airplane structure only, excluding aircraft systems.

The target for 787 final assembly in Everett is three days. This time frame does not include wing and tail integration that will be done in parallel feeder lines in Everett before final assembly. Nor does it include painting and testing that follow rollout.

Internal company documents show that by 2011 Boeing plans to roll out a new 787 every two days.

And because of the extent of customer interest in the jet, Boeing is studying whether it could accomplish that by early 2010 and afterward pump out two jets every three days.

The study will examine whether Boeing and its global partners can increase production rates in unison.

Boeing will need a well-oiled supply system to make that happen.

Japan

For 787 production, Boeing's three main Japanese partners are building new plants or expanding existing ones around the industrial city of Nagoya, two hours southwest of Tokyo by bullet train.

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Kawasaki Heavy Industries builds the short fuselage section in front of the wing. It also supplies the fixed trailing edge of the wing and sends it to the Mitsubishi plant.

Fuji Heavy Industries builds the center wing box, the heavily reinforced structure in the lower half of the central fuselage that holds the wings and landing gear.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries builds the wings. Workers attach the fixed trailing edge of the wing, supplied by Kawasaki, and the fixed leading edge, supplied by the former Boeing plant in Tulsa, Okla. (now run by Spirit Aerosystems).

Boeing flies the fuselage barrel and center wing box from Japan to Charleston, S.C., in a special air-cargo freighter. It flies the wings to Everett.

Italy

In Foggia in southern Italy, Alenia builds the 64-foot-wide horizontal stabilizer. Boeing flies it to Everett.

In Grottaglie, Italy, Alenia builds the top of the central fuselage and the fuselage section behind the wings, to which it adds the aft cargo door from Saab of Sweden. Boeing flies the two fuselage sections to the Vought/Alenia integration plant in Charleston, S.C.

U.K.

Though headquartered in France, Messier-Dowty will build the main landing gear and the nose landing gear at a plant in Gloucester, England. By 2009, Messier-Dowty plans to shift production to North America. Everett is a potential site.

The nose landing gear is flown to Wichita, the main landing gear to Everett.

Wichita and Tulsa

In June, Boeing completed the sale of its plant in Wichita and a smaller plant in Tulsa to Canadian investment firm Onex, which renamed the operation Spirit Aerosystems.

In Wichita, Spirit builds the nose and cockpit section of the jet. It attaches the nose landing gear, made by Messier-Dowty, and the forward cargo door, made by Saab. Boeing then flies the complete, 43-foot-long, forward section of the 787 to Everett.

Spirit also makes the pylons from which the engines hang. These go (likely by rail) to Everett.

Spirit's smaller unit in Tulsa builds the leading edges of the wing. The fixed leading edge is shipped to Mitsubishi in Japan; the movable leading edge goes by rail to Everett.

South Carolina

and Texas

Headquartered in Dallas, Vought builds the rear fuselage in Charleston in two sections. It adds the aft passenger entry door, which arrives via ship from Latecoere in France, and joins the two sections together.

Boeing flies the completed aft fuselage to Everett. At a plant adjacent to the Vought factory, a Vought/Alenia joint venture assembles the midfuselage section of the aircraft. Workers join the Alenia and Kawasaki fuselage sections and the center wing box from Fuji, along with the wing to body fairing from Boeing Canada in Winnipeg and the forward passenger entry door, which arrives via ship from Latecoere in France. Alenia/Vought installs all ducting and insulation. Boeing flies the completed midfuselage section to Everett.

Boeing — non-U.S.

Boeing's Hawker de Havilland unit in Australia builds both the movable trailing edge and the inboard flaps of the wings. Both are sent to Everett.

At its major composites fabrication center in Winnipeg, Boeing Canada fabricates the wing-to-body fairing from panels made in Hafei, China. This goes by rail to the Vought/Alenia midfuselage integration site in Charleston.

Winnipeg also supplies the main landing-gear doors and the aft pylon fairing, which go to Everett, likely by rail.

The Boeing Design Center in Moscow, Russia, employs 140 engineers offering 787 design support, principally to Wichita and Everett. An additional 30 engineers are helping with the modifications that will turn three used 747s into large cargo freighters.

Boeing — Puget Sound

Worldwide Boeing employment directly on the 787 at year-end is projected to be about 4,000 engineers and 100 other staff. All but 300 will be in the Puget Sound area.

Boeing's Frederickson, Pierce County, plant builds the vertical fin, the only piece of the airframe made in the Puget Sound region, and integrates the rudder from Chengdu in China and the leading edge of the fin from Shenyang in China. The 30-foot-tall fins travel by road to Everett.

The 787 comes together at Boeing's Everett plant in the following stages:

1. Tail and aft fuselage integration feeder line.

Boeing Machinists join the horizontal stabilizer from Italy and the tail cone from Korea to the aft fuselage from Vought in Charleston, S.C.

2. Wing integration feeder line.

Boeing Machinists join the wings from Mitsubishi; the wings tips from Korea; the movable trailing edge from Boeing's Australian unit; the engine pylons and the movable leading edge from Spirit in Wichita and Tulsa; and the rear pylon fairings from Boeing Canada.

3. Final assembly.

Boeing Machinists join the forward fuselage from Spirit in Wichita and the big central fuselage section and flight deck from Alenia/Vought in Charleston and add the main landing gear from Messier-Dowty and landing gear doors from Boeing Canada.

They join the completed wings to the fuselage.

The tail and aft fuselage are attached to the airplane and the vertical fin from Frederickson is joined to the rest of the tail.

The engines are hung on the wing pylons.

The interior seats and finishings are installed.

4. Paint, fuel, test and deliver.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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