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Frontiers October 2013 Issue

BEOING FRONTIERS / OCTOBER 2013 29 helps mechanics with their paperwork and other requirements during assembly. “Mechanics have learned from experience, and the transition time has been much faster than we expected,” she said. “It’s been really smooth. I was kind of surprised because with something new, you never know.” Phil Vergara, a lead for the team that joins the 787-9 wings and body during final assembly, said about 50 percent of his crew transitioned over from the 787-8. “We took a lot of experienced mechanics from the dash-8 and formed a new team for the dash-9,” he said, adding that final assembly for the 787-9 has been “amazing.” “We used a lot of processes and technologies from the dash-8 and, most important, lessons learned,” he said. When Vergara was interviewed for this story in mid-June, the first 787-9 was in final assembly position 2, with the wings and body already joined. Just as seeing the landing gear on the 787-9 for the first time was a highlight for Bruce Kaufman and his team, it was a big day for Vergara and his teammates when the first 787-9 had wings. “It’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment, when you come in here every day,” Vergara said. “Then one day you come to work and you see the fuselage sitting there and the wings off to the side, and you know by the end of the day when you go home the wings will be attached, and you were a part of that. It’s a pretty cool feeling.” Daniel Mizumori, a shipside support manager for the 787-9, summed up what has been a successful and seamless transition to the 787-9 this way: “We have an experienced team that grew with the dash-8.” Jenks and other program leaders stress that the 787-8 is a great airplane, and with production ramping up, the company could not afford to have any disruptions caused by the 787-9. It had to be right the first time. “Clearly we were going to do better, no question,” Jenks said. “But the team set the bar high from the start. We emphasized continually that we needed an extremely smooth introduction of the 787-9 into final assembly. It had to be very clean. The entire team rallied around that idea.” A huge amount of preparation and planning went into getting ready for the 787-9, he said. Boeing spent a couple of years “digging down” into the details of what is done in final assembly, Jenks said. “We have an unprecedented level of understanding of all our factories, dozens of sites around the world that are making parts for the airplane,” he said. “That’s what it takes.” That relentless focus on execution continues to pay off. The first major assembly, from Boeing Fabrication, was delivered to final assembly in Everett some three weeks early, and the start of final assembly came on schedule at the end of May. What makes the job the entire 787-9 team has done even more impressive, Jenks said, is that this isn’t a typical derivative airplane. “There is a tremendous amount of technology in the airplane, a lot of changes,” Jenks said. “It’s not at all a simple derivative.” For competitive reasons, Boeing won’t publicly discuss in detail many of the changes in the 787-9. But the benefits include better performance and lower production costs in some cases. “We have made significant improvements,” said Ed Petkus, director and deputy chief project engineer of the 787-9 and 787-10. For example, he noted that the horizontal stabilizer on the 787-9 is a two-piece composite structure rather than three pieces on the 787-8. This simplifies manufacturing and assembly—efficiency gains that translate into lower costs and faster production. Also, the flight-deck window frame on the 787-9 is a one-piece aluminum structure. On the 787-8, it was built up from a number of titanium pieces. The improvement, which is being rolled into 787-8 production, saves weight and costs. And engine-makers Rolls-Royce and PHOTOS: (Clockwise from top) The first 787-9 in final assembly in the Everett, Wash., factory; the tail section of the 787-9 features cutting-edge technology to reduce fuel burn; Daniel Mizumori, shipside support manager for the 787-9; mechanic Marcel Lagua works on the 787-9 main landing gear during final assembly; Monica Elizondo; mechanic Phil Vergara of the 787-9 wing body join team. Bob Ferguson/Boeing


Frontiers October 2013 Issue
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