Major assembly of the first stretched 787-9 is getting underway with the installation of door frames in a forward fuselage section in Japan.

The lengthened Section 43 fuselage barrel is being built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) in Nagoya along with the aircraft’s keel beam, pressure bulkhead, wheel well bulkhead and wing fixed trailing edge. The one-piece barrel fuselage assembly, which is around 10 ft. longer than the units made for the standard 787-8, will be barged on completion to Central Japan International Airport in Nagoya for transport to North Charleston, S.C. on board the 747LCF Dreamlifter.

The remaining structural parts for the first 787-9 shipset will be sent on to Fuji Heavy Industries for integration with the center wing section. Final assembly of all the sections for the 787-9 will take place in Everett next year, with first flight “still set for 2013,” says Boeing Commercial Airplanes marketing vice president Randy Tinseth. First delivery to Air New Zealand is scheduled for 2014.

The buildup to the start of major assembly of the 787-9 has been accelerating since the program completed its critical design review in September 2011. By this stage last year the production tooling was also in development or under construction, including the extended fuselage assembly mandrel used by KHI for the Section 43.

The 787-9 will be 206 ft. long, or 20 ft. longer overall than the 787-8. The other major modified tooling is a new production jig at Alenia Aeronautica’s Grottaglie plant in Italy, which will make the extended Section 46 aft fuselage.

Although the fuselage is being extended to seat up to 40 more passengers, and its 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, while other changes include a beefed-up main landing gear to handle the increased operating weights of the stretch version.

The main landing gear truck will be larger and the beam widened to accommodate the maximum take-off weight of between 545,000 lb. and 553,000 lb., around 50,000 lb. more than the -8. As a result, the landing gear will require additional stowage space, which will be created by raising the height of the pressure deck to avoid any changes to the outer mold line.