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Originally published May 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 27, 2008 at 6:03 PM

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First 777 freighter makes its debut

Boeing's newest large cargo aircraft, the first 777 freighter, debuted Wednesday in Everett before about 4,000 employees and guests. This freighter, one of...

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing's newest large cargo aircraft, the first 777 freighter, debuted Wednesday in Everett before about 4,000 employees and guests.

This freighter, one of two flight-test airplanes, will make its first flight this summer with chief 777 pilot Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann at the helm.

After certification, it is due to be delivered to Air France exactly on schedule in the fourth quarter.

Boeing undertook an ambitious manufacturing project to build this airplane, an entirely new 777 model that has no windows, a huge new cargo door, a strengthened floor and a sophisticated cargo-handling system.

It was assembled on the same production line as the 777 passenger jets, while Boeing extensively redesigned the assembly process.

If the supply chain had faltered and some crucial piece among the thousands of new parts for the freighter had been missing, that could have shut down the line and jammed up the passenger jets coming behind.

"The risk was we would jig-lock this factory," said Elizabeth Lund, director of 777 manufacturing. "We worked incredibly closely with our suppliers, the supply chain and engineering to prevent that. It went very well."

The 777 freighter can carry 113 tons of cargo more than 5,600 miles. That's just 11 tons less than the workhorse 747-400 jumbo freighter. But the 777 freighter has an extra 500-mile range and burns 20 percent less fuel per ton of cargo.

The new jet program, which officially launched three years ago this month, has 78 firm orders from 11 customers. Boeing will build eight of the new cargo planes by the end of this year.

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

The original version of this story, published May 22, 2008, incorrectly said Boeing's first 777 freighter will be delivered to Air France in the third quarter of this year. It will be delivered in the fourth quarter.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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