This week the first Air New Zealand B777-200 jet aircraft began assembly in Boeing's Everett factory in Seattle - with work on the first of four 30 metre long wing spars.
"While construction of several major parts has been going on for some months by various suppliers, this is the first visible sign of the assembly process of the new aircraft," explained Air New Zealand General Manager International Airline, Ed Sims.
The spars separate the upper and lower wing surfaces and provide closure at the front and rear of the wing structure forming the fuel tanks in the wing.
Yesterday they were loaded into a giant Automated Spar Assembly Tool (ASAT) where they were drilled and machined in preparation for attachment of the upper and lower wing skins and many other auxiliary fittings.
The spar and wing skin machining processes, including the finishing of 44,000 fasteners which go into each wing, will take about two weeks followed by the mating of the wing skins to the spar.
At this point the shape of the wings will be very clear - and following installation of the many fittings they will eventually be finished off by sealing and painting.
"The first aircraft is scheduled to be painted and have the Air New Zealand livery applied at the end of August, undergo extensive flight testing and be delivered to Air New Zealand in late September," said Mr Sims.
"Between now and then, Boeing workers have a multitude of tasks to complete".
Air New Zealand has acquired eight new Boeing 777-200 ER which will be progressively introduced into the airline's fleet from September 2005 - the first five will be delivered by mid next year and the remaining three by the end of 2006.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs - phone +64 9 336 2761
Pictures available on request.
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