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Standing underneath the biggest passenger airplane Boeing has ever built, Ray Fredett dabs paint on a fastener that is smaller than a finger nail.
"It protects the fastener from corrosion," the aircraft painter says as he methodically makes his way through the fasteners for a panel that was recently replaced. "Even on the belly [of the airplane] it's an important function to do."
It is the smallest of details that the team of Boeing technicians and engineers must pay attention to as they work through an exhaustive list of hardware and software checks to clear the new 747-8 Intercontinental to lift off for its first flight.
"This is just one aspect," says Fredett.
"There are a lot of tasks to complete and a lot of paperwork to sift through to make sure there's nothing that prevents us from flying." Don Dettmer, Boeing flight line manager
While Fredett touches up the paint, two technicians inspect the front landing gear, while another is on a scissor lift working on the fuselage. Still others are checking the new General Electric engines, which have their cowlings up, exposing a complex mesh of wires and tubes.
"We've been working on this airplane for weeks now," says Don Dettmer, one of the flight line managers. "There are a lot of tasks to complete and a lot of paperwork to sift through to make sure there's nothing that prevents us from flying."
The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is the new, high-capacity 747 that offers airlines the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large passenger airplane, while providing enhanced environmental performance. With a range of 8,000 nautical miles (14,815 km), the 747-8 Intercontinental can connect nearly any major city pair in the world.
In the coming days, the team will tackle three big milestones that pave the way for first flight:
"We're getting very close to being finished. It's very exciting, really looking forward to flying." John Nye, Boeing instrumentation engineer
"We're looking pretty good at this point," says Dettmer.
To ensure accurate data are collected during the final tests and eventually during first flight, instrumentation engineer John Nye and his team are double-checking the wires that feed flight test data to the monitoring stations set up in the cabin. There are literally thousands of connections that have to be tested.
"It's a process of trouble shooting, and we start out and go through each step," says Nye. "It's painstaking work that we go through and make sure the data stream is smooth and it's all going through."
After weeks of preparations, this team can see the end of the runway.
"We're getting very close to being finished," says Nye. "It's very exciting, really looking forward to flying."