Randy's Journal: Archives

21 February 2007

Dream on

We just got a look at the first production forward section of the 787 Dreamliner. And I wanted to give you a chance to see it as well.

This photograph kind of makes you realize just how close we are to the first airplane rollout and first flight later this year. Production of this forward section is an important step, and an exciting milestone, too.

Boeing photo

This all-composite 787 section is 21 feet (6.4 m) in diameter, and 42 feet (12.8m) long. The photo, taken at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, gives a good sense of the size and scale of the airplane.

Spirit AeroSystems is a program partner on the Dreamliner program, and is not only producing the forward section in Wichita, but is designing and manufacturing the 787’s pylons – which hold the engines to the airplane. And in Tulsa, Spirit is designing and building the leading edges of the wings.

As I’m sure you know, we’re pioneering some new manufacturing techniques to build the composite fuselage sections of the 787. On this piece, Spirit employs state-of-the-art fiber placement equipment to apply composite “plies” over the complex contours of the airplane. Then the forward section is wrapped and prepared for curing in a giant autoclave. The heat of the autoclave transforms the composite material into an extremely strong and reliable structure.

The forward section has also successfully completed a non-destructive inspection process, using high-frequency sound waves to scan for imperfections in the composite skin. The tests confirmed the structural integrity of the section – and set the stage for delivery of the first forward sections for final assembly.

Before you know it, forward sections will be on their way from Wichita to Everett on the Dreamlifter. Like I said, we’re getting close.