Workers at Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ plant in North Charleston, S.C., have started the final assembly for the first 787-10 Dreamliner twin-engine wide-body jet. While the OEM called this “another on-time milestone for the development program,” in a sense it represents an ending of development for the current Dreamliner series: the 787-10 is the last of three variants of the series, and the last to go into testing, development, and now production.
Boeing initiated the 787 program in the late 1990s and, after some delays, it began delivering the first jets to customers in 2011. Dreamliners are long-range passenger jets that Boeing calls its “most fuel-efficient commercial jet design,” with a structure that includes a large volume of composite materials to help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% versus similar-size jets. Advanced aerodynamics, more-electric systems, and turbofan jet engines add to the 787’s appeal to airlines.
Often described as a “stretch” version of the 787-9, the 787-10 measures 224-ft, 1-in. (68.30 m) long and will seat 330 passengers in a two-class cabin configuration. It will have a range of 6,430 nautical miles (or 7,400 miles / 11,910 km.) From the OEM’s perspective, the 787-10 has “95% commonality” with the 787-9; for passengers it offers more seats and cargo capacity; and for the carriers it offers “25% better fuel per seat and emissions than the airplanes it will replace.”
A cargo-variant of the 787 has been discussed, but Boeing has made no statements on such a development.
"As we enter the next phase of the 787-10's development, we eagerly watch our first airplane come to life," stated Ken Sanger, v.p. and general manager, 787 airplane development. "This is the result of years of preparation and solid performance by our Boeing teammates and supplier partners. This achievement is another example that demonstrates Boeing's ability to develop great airplanes in a disciplined fashion in order to meet our customer commitments."
Boeing explained that the jet now beginning the assembly process will “cycle through” the Boeing South Carolina's Final Assembly plant, where preassembled aircraft sections are joined and interior and exterior components are installed. After assembly and powering up, production tests will begin.
The first flight for the new jet is expected to take place in 2017 and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2018. Boeing has logged 154 orders for 787-10 aircraft from nine commercial carriers. Singapore Airlines is expected to be the launch customer, though British Airways and United Airlines also have orders in place.