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Aircraft will be Boeing’s main method of transporting large pieces of the 7E7 to its final assembly site.
Boeing said it plans to convert at least three used 747-400 jets to carry large completed subassemblies to the final assembly site. That will include completed wings and fuselage sections which, because they will be made composite materials, makes it feasible to ship them by air.
“”That allows us to build larger, more integrated assemblies that will come from all over the world,”” Mike Bair, the senior vice president in charge of the 7E7 program, said in a prepared statement. “”Regardless of where the final assembly site, air transport is a perfect solution.””
Airbus already flies major sections of its planes between factories in Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and France where they are fabricated, and the final assembly sites in Tolouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Airbus uses a fleet of five radically modified A300 jets, which it has nicknamed “”Belugas.””
The difference between that and what Boeing plans is the distance, Leach said. Boeing will likely fly in sections completed by suppliers in Italy and Japan, so it needs a long-range airplane like the 747-400.
The decision marks a new tack in Boeing’s thinking about how it will build the 7E7. Previously, Boeing executives had downplayed flying large sections to the assembly site. Last month, Bair said Boeing had studied air transport, but still thought shipping by water was crucial. “”Even if we were to make sense out of flying large parts in, you’d still want a deep-water port for backup,”” he said.
The shift illustrates the dynamics of the still-evolving 7E7 program, Leach said Monday. Further research, she said, showed “”just phenomenal”” advantages to shipping by air — cutting delivery times from weeks to hours and slashing costs by more than 20 percent.
However, shipping by water still remains a key part of Boeing’s plan, Leach said. It’s not feasible to move every piece and component by air, so the company still is focusing only on sites with deep-water access.
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