Boeing is starting production of initial parts for the first stretched 787-9, and is “on track” to achieve payload-range and empty weight targets after completing the critical design review (CDR) in mid-September.

First deliveries of the 787-9 are set to begin in only 27 months, and long-lead items such as the production tooling are already under construction. These include the fuselage assembly mandrels for the two stretched sections of the 787-9 which is 206 ft. in length, or 20 ft. longer than the 787-8. The new production jigs are being installed at Alenia Aeronautica’s Grottaglie plant in Italy which will make the extended Section 46 aft fuselage, and at Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which will assemble the enlarged forward Section 43. Both fuselage sections will be extended by 10 ft. over the current one-piece composite fuselage barrels.

Although the fuselage is being extended to seat up to 40 more passengers, and range increased to as much as 8,500 naut. mi., the aircraft will retain the same 197-ft. span as the baseline 787-8. The wing, fuselage and empennage skins will be heavier gauge, says 787-9 development vice president Mark Jenks, who adds that CDR comes just over a year after completion of design definition in mid-2010. Other changes include a beefed-up main landing gear to handle the increased operating weights of the stretch.

To accommodate the maximum take-off weight of between 545,000 lb and 553,000 lb, around 50,000 lb more than the -8, the main landing gear truck is enlarged, its beam widened and the overall gauge increased. As a result the landing gear required additional stowage space, forcing Boeing to raise the height of the pressure deck to avoid any changes to the outer mold line. Overall, however, Jenks describes the structural changes as minor.

Rolls-Royce is gearing up to make the first run of a Trent 1000 with elements of the ‘Package C’ engine configuration in development for the 787-9. An engine containing discrete features of the ‘C’ upgrade is due to make its first run in Derby, England in October. Rated at around 74,000 lb thrust, the first full-up Package C engine will run in early 2012. The improved engine will incorporate advanced tip clearance control systems in the high, intermediate and low pressure turbines as well a range of changes to the secondary air system.

The first Package B engine is close to certification on the 787-8, having flown on test aircraft ZA004 since May this year. Aircraft type certification with Package B is expected around the start of November. The upgrade is designed to bring performance to within 1% of Boeing’s original specification and will be rated at 70,000 lb for delivery of the first long-haul 787-8 version for ANA - currently set for the late November-early December timeframe.

The package includes revisions to the twist of the fan blades and outlet guide vanes which were prompted when Boeing’s thrust requirement increased. The higher thrust resulted in a slightly smaller nozzle exit area which drove changes to the fan to match the higher pressure ratio. Package B also includes changes to aerodynamics in the six-stage low pressure turbine, while improved cooling flow was developed for the intermediate pressure turbine and changes made to the secondary air system to take off sealing and cooling air at a lower pressure stage.