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Originally published August 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 6, 2008 at 12:34 AM

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Delayed 787 Dreamliner section finally arrives; flight test schedule tightens

The center fuselage of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner No. 4 arrived in Everett Monday night five weeks late. Boeing says it still hopes to stick to the revised delivery schedule set in April.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

The long center-fuselage section of Boeing's Dreamliner No. 4 finally arrived in Everett Monday night — five weeks later than the revised delivery date set in April when the last major program delay was announced.

The nose section, which had been held in Wichita, Kan., until the center fuselage was ready, arrived earlier Monday. With all the major pieces in Everett, mechanics Tuesday began final assembly of this flight-test plane.

The impact of the late delivery on the 787 flight-test schedule is still unclear, but spokeswoman Lori Gunter said Boeing hopes to stick to its current plan and deliver the first airplane in the third quarter of next year.

At the Farnborough Air Show last month, 787 program chief Pat Shanahan said the schedule revised in April included some margin to deal with production problems but admitted that subsequent issues were "eating margin I don't want to eat."

The 84-foot-long center fuselage was assembled in Charleston, S.C., by Global Aeronautica, a joint venture between Boeing and its Italian 787 partner, Alenia. The upper portion was damaged at the Global Aeronautica assembly plant by a mechanic misdrilling holes in late June. The mechanic, who worked for Alenia, was fired.

Gunter said the damage was repaired within days but that the section was further delayed so that assembly could be more complete before shipping to Everett.

The section that arrived Monday is for the fourth flight-test airplane. It's actually the sixth airplane to be built because there are two ground-test airplanes ahead of it.

The remaining two flight-test airplanes — No. 5 and No. 6 — will also arrive later than originally planned but also more complete, Gunter said.

"We are still looking at what this will mean to the overall [flight-test] schedule," Gunter said.

"But our current understanding is that it can be accommodated within the existing schedule."

Boeing has about 10 months for the flight-test program, which begins with first flight around November and must be completed by first delivery.

The sooner it can get all six flight-test planes in the air, the sooner it can finish. The flight-test program for Boeing's last all-new jet, the 777, lasted 10 months.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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