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Originally published July 7, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Page modified July 8, 2014 at 9:26 AM

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First of three 737 fuselages pulled from river’s edge

Boeing is still assessing the extent of the damage to six 737 narrowbody jet fuselages resulting from the July 3 train derailment in Montana. Large structural parts for the 777 and 747 widebody jets also on the train have been inspected and appear undamaged.


Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Boeing said it is still assessing the extent of the damage to six 737 narrowbody jet fuselages resulting from Thursday’s train derailment near Rivulet, Mont.

The large structural parts for 777 and 747 widebody jets that were also on the train have been inspected and appear undamaged, Boeing said Monday.

A Montana Rail Link spokeswoman said it took about 12 hours to remove the first of the three fuselages that slid down an embankment to the edge of the Clark Fork River.

Spokeswoman Lynda Frost said Monday that specialized machines are pulling the 20-ton fuselages attached to 50-ton flatbed cars from the embankment one at a time at a rate of 20 feet per hour.

Frost said the most difficult fuselage to retrieve was removed safely Sunday. Crews are attempting to remove the fuselages and their flatbed cars without causing any additional damage, she said, and they were aiming to have all three removed by Tuesday.

Three other 737 fuselages also fell off the train during Thursday’s derailment 50 miles west of Missoula, and at least one broke into pieces.

Investigators from Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems are examining the wreckage.

The complete fuselages were built by Spirit in Wichita, Kan., and were en route to the Boeing final-assembly plant in Renton.

Company spokesman Doug Alder said Boeing won’t decide what to do with the fuselages — how best to retrieve them and whether they can be repaired or need to be scrapped — until the damage assessment is complete.

The 747 and 777 assemblies will be shipped to the Boeing final-assembly plant in Everett, arriving over the next several days, Alder said.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

The huge blue-green fuselages are a common sight on railways along the 2,000-mile route from Kansas to Washington state.

Ken Evans, senior manager for Spirit, said the company ships 42 of the 737 fuselages each month.

Spirit, formerly a unit of Boeing, has been designing, building and shipping the fuselages by rail from Wichita since 1968, he said.

“In my memory, we’ve not had a serious derailment like this before,” he said Monday.

The fallen hulls became a spectacle for rafters to gawk at while floating past the partially submerged fuselages on the Clark Fork River.

Jason Shreder, owner of Zoo Town Surfers, about a quarter-mile up the river, told the Missoulian newspaper that a few people booked raft trips over the weekend to see the fuselages and other debris from the derailment.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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



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