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Saturday, April 15, 2006 - Page updated at 11:09 AM

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Boeing superfreighter takes shape in Taiwan

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

The first of the superfreighters that will ferry pieces of the 787 across the globe is now nearing completion in Taiwan.

These previously unpublished company photos convey the magnitude of the modification work involved in transforming the used 747s into oversized delivery vehicles.

Evergreen Aviation Technologies is modifying the planes in a 3-acre maintenance hangar at Taipei's Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport.

Boeing has commissioned three of the superfreighters that will carry 787 wings from Nagoya, Japan, to Everett, as well as fuselage sections from Grottaglie, Italy; Wichita, Kan.; and Charleston, S.C.

This used 747 first had its entire upper fuselage and tail removed. In November, the airplane resembled something like a top-down convertible jumbo jet.

In December, the cargo floor and new pressure bulkheads were built. Earlier this year, a bulbous new top was added to accommodate the huge pieces of the 787 that will have to fit inside. The tail will be reconnected on a hinge so that the entire rear fuselage swings open for loading.

This first airplane is due to make its first flight in June. Internal Boeing documents obtained by The Seattle Times show that the airplane is scheduled to arrive here in July.

Some flight testing will be done in Taipei before its Seattle arrival.

Company spokeswoman Mary Hanson said Boeing will complete the flight-test program here, aiming to certify the aircraft to enter service by year-end so it is ready to transport the first completed 787 sections early next year.

The modified superfreighters embody the new globalized Boeing — in their creation as well as their function. Evergreen, the builder of the aircraft, is a joint venture of EVA Air and General Electric and part of Taiwan's Evergreen Group. And the aircraft was designed with significant engineering from Boeing's design center in Moscow.

That spurred Adam Pilarski, an analyst with Avitas, to quip that Boeing's new superfreighter fleet is "designed in Russia and built in China."

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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