Bright lights from TV cameras glinted off the 108-foot long wing spar as an automated drilling machine performed its programmed maneuvers.
About 500 employees, members of the media and customer representatives joined an online audience to witness production of the first wing spar for the first 777X that will take to the skies.
The event, which was streamed live on social media channels, marked a major production milestone for the program — the first hole drilled in the first wing spar that will be part of a flying airplane.
Employees expressed their enthusiasm about the beginning of production.
“It’s been so exciting to see the first parts come through after years of preparing for the first airplane,” said Paul Clark, 777X wing assembly mechanic. “We’ve got a great team here and all of us are eager to begin using the new equipment and processes.”
Airline customers shared in the enthusiasm. “Actually seeing and hearing parts being made and parts being delivered is something very exciting,” said Nicolas Zika, Etihad’s representative to Boeing. “It means that this is something real that is being built, and it’s [getting] closer and closer.”
Fabricated in the Composite Wing Center in Everett, Wash., the front and rear spars had their first voyage to a new facility, the 40-02 building, housing 777X wing assembly.
“The 777X wing is a composite, so it is much lighter and maintains good strength characteristics,” said Mary Manning, 777X design engineer. “This allows the airplane to be lighter, which results in greater performance and fuel efficiency. This will be better for our airline customers.”
In anticipation of the 777X, the 40-02 building has been completely refurbished, with new tooling for the wing spars installed, tested and qualified. The first flying airplane are scheduled to roll out next year with test and certification to occur in 2019 and first delivery in 2020.
By Bret Jensen and Jordan Longacre