SpeciAAl Delivery Flight Event: American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (Part One) – VIP Tour of 737 and 777 Factory

AA BOEING 773 DELIV FLIGHT - RIBBON CUTTING

Reported from Seattle and Dallas/Ft. Worth by: Chris Sloan, Airchive.com

 

To say, the last few years have been “eventful” for American Airlines is an understatement. In many ways it has been a tail of two airlines. These litany of lows are well documented: Chapter 11 bankruptcy, record financial losses, corporate passengers and accounts so key to the yields abandoning the airline in droves, operational disruptions caused by labor discontent, seats that became unattached during flight last summer, an aggressive merger overture / takeover from profitable, but much smaller USAirways, and even a freak computer reservation systems meltdown on April 16, 2013 that paralyzed much of the system for a good part of the day. Often times these types of perilous events spell a downward spiral or at the very least retrenchment.

Extra: Airchive.com  American Airlines Timetables from 1930s to present

Extra: Airchive.com  American Airlines Memorabilia and Sales Brochures from 1930s to present

Extra: Airchive.com:  American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum

Extra: Airchive.com ”Cabins and Flight Decks of American Airlines Aircraft Over The Years”

 

Simultaneously, American has flown in another direction: expansion, profitability, and upgrades. In July 2011 American placed the largest single airliner order in history, booking $13 billion USD worth of 460 Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 airliners. In November, 2011 just days before the bankruptcy filing, American became the first airline in the United States to order the world’s most efficient and successful long-haul airliner, the Boeing 777-300ER.

Body and wing join on American Airlines first Boeing 777-300ER, photographed in 2012. Image courtesy: American Airlines

Body and wing join on American Airlines first Boeing 777-300ER, photographed in 2012.
Image courtesy: American Airlines

American's first Boeing 777-300ER under assembly at Boeing Everett in 2012. Image Courtesy: American Airlines

American’s first Boeing 777-300ER under assembly at Boeing Everett in 2012.
Image Courtesy: American Airlines

Inside the capacious fuselage of American's first Boeing 777-300ER during assembly in 2012.

Inside the capacious fuselage of American’s first Boeing 777-300ER during assembly in 2012.

During 2012, American became the most prolific carrier in equipping its pilots and cabin crew with iPADs and Samsung Galaxy tablets respectively. American and British Airways finally consummated the decades long joint venture that gives them dominance on the USA-London Heathrow routes. AA pulled off a similar hotly contested coup over Delta and United, creating a joint venture with JAL to become competitive between the USA and Japan, helping offset American’s weak #3 position in Asia. Beginning in May 2013, American will debut DFW-Seoul, Korea service. In July, 2012 American announced a new transcontinental in-flight product debuting in November 2013 using the new Airbus A321s. Previews of this service suggest it is destined to catapult one of the carrier’s highest premium routes from archaic and tired to state-of-the-art elegance. The all-important financial side of the company is showing a strengthening pulse as well. Just a few days into 2013 AA reported revenue of $24.9 billion in 2012, the highest in company history and a full-year operating profit of $494 million, excluding special items, a $749 million improvement over 2011. In its first quarter of 2013, American actually posted an operating profit excluding small items of $125 million and $6.1 billion in first quarter revenue – the airline’s highest ever in Q1. On January 17, 2013 AA unveiled a controversial new livery and branding positioning “The New American” replacing a 45 year-old iconic livery that was the most venerable in U.S. history.

A Boeing 737-800 surprisingly, instead of the new 777-300ER Flagship was the first airliner painted in the new livery. It was flown in stealthily the morning of the announcement and put on display for employees and press in a hanger in front of an unpainted 777-300ER. The 777-300ER flew out later that day for painting in Victorville while the 737-800 went on a tour of American’s hubs.

A Boeing 737-800 surprisingly, instead of the new 777-300ER Flagship was the first airliner painted in the new livery. It was flown in stealthily the morning of the announcement and put on display for employees and press in a hanger in front of an unpainted 777-300ER. The 777-300ER flew out later that day for painting in Victorville while the 737-800 went on a tour of American’s hubs.

A Boeing 737-800 surprisingly, instead of the new 777-300ER Flagship was the first airliner painted in the new livery. It was flown in stealthily the morning of the announcement and put on display for employees and press in a hanger in front of an unpainted 777-300ER. The 777-300ER flew out later that day for painting in Victorville while the 737-800 went on a tour of American’s hubs. Image courtesy: American Airlines

A few weeks later on January 31, 2013, American inaugurated its first Boeing 777-300ER service with a flight between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was onboard this historic flight and my expectations were absolutely exceeded in nearly every way. Other reviews and passenger reviews and press testimonials resoundingly echoed my effusive impressions. Amidst the controversy, strife, and uncertainty, virtually everyone from press to passengers to employees agreed the 777-300ER was not only a home run but perhaps as one Executive Platinum passenger called it “the most luxurious plane and service of any airline in the Western Hemisphere”. Restating the unobvious, these changes for the bigger and better are exactly the antithesis of the way most airlines, and indeed companies act in a bankruptcy organization.

With the importance of Latin America and booming Brazil to American Airlines, it's no accident Sao Paulo was chosen to be the inaugural flight of the new 777-300ER. Our flight departed right on-time. American's new counter and terminal branding will debut shortly at DFW's remodeled Terminal A.

With the importance of Latin America and booming Brazil to American Airlines, it’s no accident Sao Paulo was chosen to be the inaugural flight of the new 777-300ER. Our flight departed right on-time. American’s new counter and terminal branding will debut shortly at DFW’s remodeled Terminal A.

AMERICAN AIRLINES BOEING 777-300ER INAUGURAL GATE EVENT BRANDED COOKIES AND BROCHURES - 2013

Commemorative American Airlines 777-300 cookies and brochures at the gate on inaugural day. I have 1 still in my freezer.

American Gate D-23 at DFW is the site of the understated and brief inaugural, with a small pre-boarding snack buffet. The highlight was the AA 777-300ER branded cookies.

American Gate D-23 at DFW is the site of the understated and brief inaugural, with a small pre-boarding snack buffet. The highlight was the AA 777-300ER branded cookies.

American’s First Boeing 777-300ER, N171AN, seen at DFW Gate D-23, the day of departure flew the inaugural flight. It signifies the birth of a new airline.

American’s First Boeing 777-300ER, N171AN, seen at DFW Gate D-23  the day of departure flew the inaugural flight on January 31, 2013 to Sao Paulo. It signifies the birth of a new airline.

American's GE90-115B engines develop up to 115,000 pound of thrust to carry a maximum payload of nearly 800,000 pounds. They were de-rated on take-off for our flight. I am glad they weren't spooling up when I was standing in front of these behemoth's.

American’s GE90-115B engines develop up to 115,000 pound of thrust to carry a maximum payload of nearly 800,000 pounds. They were de-rated on take-off for our flight. I am glad they weren’t spooling up when I was standing in front of these behemoths.

Business in the front and party in the back! Reactions to the new livery were mixed: The updated Eagle icon, “billboard” American typography, and silver mica paint were generally well received. The flag on the tail was critiqued as being gaudy and incongruous with the elegance of the fuselage. In person, it is much more appealing and grows on you.

Business in the front and party in the back! Reactions to the new livery were mixed: The updated Eagle icon, “billboard” American typography, and silver mica paint were generally well received. The flag on the tail was critiqued as being gaudy and incongruous with the elegance of the fuselage. In person, it is much more appealing and grows on you.

Business in the front and party in the back! Reactions to the new livery were mixed: The updated Eagle icon, “billboard” American typography, and silver mica paint were generally well received. The flag on the tail was critiqued as being gaudy and incongruous with the elegance of the fuselage. In person, it is much more appealing and grows on you.

With their 777-300ER, American becomes the first U.S. carrier with a standup bar / buffet for Premium Class since the 1970s. This is also the uncluttered and welcoming entry for the aircraft ala the Dreamliner. Located between First and Business Class, the bar is fully stocked following the dinner service. The Plasma screen is a nice touch.

With their 777-300ER, American becomes the first U.S. carrier with a standup bar / buffet for Premium Class since the 1970s. This is also the uncluttered and welcoming entry for the aircraft ala the Dreamliner. Located between First and Business Class, the bar is fully stocked following the dinner service. The Plasma screen is a nice touch.

 

The Business Cabin in cruise following the meal service. The Dreamliner inspired lights are further dimmed for sleeping.

The Business Cabin in cruise following the meal service on the 777-300 ER inaugural. The Dreamliner inspired lights are further dimmed for sleeping.

The standard Weber Economy Cabin’s 214 seats are also leather-clad but remain at 31” pitch and are at a 10 abreast configuration. New seatback 9” touchscreen AVOD IFE’s using the Panasonic Eco monitor and personal 110 Volt powerports are located at every seat.

The standard Weber Economy Cabin’s 214 seats are also leather-clad but remain at 31” pitch and are at a 10 abreast configuration. New seatback 9” touchscreen AVOD IFE’s using the Panasonic Eco monitor and personal 110 Volt powerports are located at every seat.

For a US domestic carrier, the 8 Zodiac UK First Class Seats are in a league all of their own with swivel seating, 2 IFE controls, an electronically controlled privacy divider, and an ottoman that becomes a seat for invited guests. This cabin is remarkably intimate and is exclusive to American’s 777-300ER. Flagship Suites will be removed from all other American aircraft.

For a US domestic carrier, the 8 Zodiac UK First Class Seats are in a league all of their own with swivel seating, 2 IFE controls, an electronically controlled privacy divider, and an ottoman that becomes a seat for invited guests. This cabin is remarkably intimate and is exclusive to American’s 777-300ER. Flagship Suites will be removed from all other American aircraft.

With their 777-300ER, American becomes the first U.S. carrier with a standup bar / buffet for Premium Class since the 1970s. This is also the uncluttered and welcoming entry for the aircraft ala the Dreamliner. Located between First and Business Class, the bar is fully stocked following the dinner service. The Plasma screen is a nice touch.

With their 777-300ER, American becomes the first U.S. carrier with a standup bar / buffet for Premium Class since the 1970s. This is also the uncluttered and welcoming entry for the aircraft ala the Dreamliner. Located between First and Business Class, the bar is fully stocked following the dinner service. The Plasma screen is a nice touch.

In cruise following the meal service, the Dreamliner 787 inspired lighting changes to a blue ceiling and red sidewalls look.

In cruise following the meal service, the Dreamliner 787 inspired lighting changes to a blue ceiling and red sidewalls look.

 

American's new comfortable Business Class seats convert into lie-flat beds bringing them on-par with their domestic and international competitors. American was late to do this, but the wait was worth it especially replacing its tired angled-bed current Business Class product.

American’s new comfortable Business Class seats convert into lie-flat beds bringing them on-par with their domestic and international competitors. American was late to do this, but the wait was worth it especially replacing its tired angled-bed current Business Class product.

AMERICAN AIRLINES BOEING 777-300ER INAUGURAL PREMIUM LAVATORY-3

The Premium Business and First Class lavatories, looking more like a boutique hotel then an airplane bathroom, have received rave reviews.

The new upgraded First Class amenity kit is exclusive to the 777-300ER Flagship Suites. CEO Tom Horton came back to Business and personally gave me his without even me asking for it.

The new upgraded First Class amenity kit is exclusive to the 777-300ER Flagship Suites. CEO Tom Horton came back to Business and personally gave me his without even me asking for it.

American Airlines CEO Tom Horton personally serves champagne to the passengers on the inaugural flight, after leading a toast to the new American. He had a very easy-going, genuine rapport with passengers and crew.

American Airlines CEO Tom Horton personally serves champagne to the passengers on the inaugural flight, after leading a toast to the new American. He had a very easy-going, genuine rapport with passengers and crew.

For a US domestic carrier, the 8 Zodiac UK First Class Seats are in a league all of their own with swivel seating, 2 IFE controls, an electronically controlled privacy divider, and an ottoman that becomes a seat for invited guests. This cabin is remarkably intimate and is exclusive to American’s 777-300ER. Flagship Suites will be removed from all other American aircraft.

For a US domestic carrier, the 8 Zodiac UK First Class Seats are in a league all of their own with swivel seating, 2 IFE controls, an electronically controlled privacy divider, and an ottoman that becomes a seat for invited guests. This cabin is remarkably intimate and is exclusive to American’s 777-300ER. Flagship Suites will be removed from all other American aircraft.

American Airlines Captains John Hale, the VP of 777 Flight Operations and Bill Elder, Fleet Training and Familiarization on the capacious flight deck of the 777-300ER the day of the inaugural.

American Airlines Captains John Hale, the VP of 777 Flight Operations and Bill Elder, Fleet Training and Familiarization on the capacious flight deck of the 777-300ER the day of the inaugural.

Business Class cabin with morning / daylight orange cruise dynamic LED lighting

Business Class cabin with morning / daylight orange cruise dynamic LED lighting

Extra: Airchive.com Review:  “The Eagle Flies Again: Onboard American Airlines’ Inaugural Boeing 777-300ER Flight”

 

American now has 5 Boeing 777-300ERs on strength. Since the Sao Paulo inaugural, these latter day “Luxury Liners” have been rolled out on the prestige routes of Dallas Ft. Worth DFW – London Heathrow LHR (March 2nd), New York JFK to London Heathrow LHR (March 15), New York JFK and Sao Paulo GRU (April 2nd), with another 777-300ER daily rotation between JFK and LHR and the inaugural 773 service between Los Angeles LAX and London Heathrow.

 

Extra: NYCAviation Review: “AAmerican Beauty: American Airlines New 777-300 Reviewed”

Extra: ‘USA Today’ Trip Review: “American’s 777-300ER Bringing Luxury Back”

 

Oh, and lest we forget one other thing… On February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day, American and USAirways finally did consummate their merger. This marriage “not of equals” was a case of the guppy swallowing the whale. AA’s stockholders received the lions share of shares at 72%, the AA brand (but not the controversial new livery) would be the one to survive, and the AA HQ would remain in Ft. Worth Texas HQ, but Doug Parker and his management team would be the conquerors in control of what will become the world’s largest airline when it is completed sometime in mid-to-late 2014.

The first "New American" print advertisement after announcing their merger with US Airways on Valentine's Day.

The first “New American” print advertisement after announcing their merger with US Airways on Valentine’s Day.

Extra: American Airlines / USAirways Merger Micro-Site

Extra: Airchive.com: “American Airlines and USAirways Tie The Knot on Valentine’s Day”

As they say in reality TV, “you couldn’t make this stuff up even if you tried”. American lurched between severe turbulence and smooth air more often then a flight deviating around summertime storms. When in these kind of unpredictable flying conditions, the best advice is “keep your seatbelts fastened”. What can’t be debated is American’s Team needs a reason to celebrate. What better way to do it then with a true Delivery Flight with all the “pomp and circumstance”? Due to the quick service entry of the 777-300ER and rebranding, American never really had any sort of the obligatory special delivery ceremony either at the Big Boeing Twin’s Everett factory birthplace or at the Dallas/Ft. Worth base normally afforded a new type. With a complete absence of fanfare, American took delivery of its first 2 777-300s (N717AN and N718AN) on December 11th and December 19th, 2012. Beginning around January 1, 2013, these anonymously painted aircraft were flown on unannounced flights to Miami, over Mexico, and around the hubs to test systems such as the new Panasonic satellite internet, a first for a U.S. carrier. When the inaugural came on January 31, 2013 the airline’s celebration was further muted by the merger discussions then reaching fevered pitch. Finally, due to Brazilian visa issues, many of the invited press and VIPs weren’t able to travel on the inaugural and instead sampled the new jet well over a month after its entry-into-service on individual flights. One way of looking at this was as a soft launch with the Grand Opening to hopefully follow.

American's first 777-300ER (N717AN) rolled out from Boeing's Everett Plant in late October, 2012 painted in a dull-gray fuselage instead of AA's traditional polished aluminum look further fanning the flames that a new look was in the works.  Image Courtesy: Russell Hill / www.flickr.com/photos/sabian404/

American’s first 777-300ER (N717AN) rolled out from Boeing’s Everett Plant in late October, 2012 painted in a dull-gray fuselage instead of AA’s traditional polished aluminum look further fanning the flames that a new look was in the works.
Image Courtesy: Russell Hill / www.flickr.com/photos/sabian404/

Another shot of American's first 777-300ER painted in a gray finish but sans any logos or cheatlines, even down to the rudder. Photo Courtesy: James Hackney   www.jameshackney.foliohd.com

Another shot of American’s first 777-300ER painted in a gray finish but sans any logos or cheatlines, even down to the rudder.
Photo Courtesy: James Hackney www.jameshackney.foliohd.com

On April 24-25, American’s Boeing 777-300 did in fact have its Grand Opening / Coming Out Party with a 2-day delivery flight event that we were fortunate enough to be invited on. The star of the celebration would be American’s 6th Boeing 777-300ER N722AN (L/N XXX). The location: the World’s “Mecca of Commercial Aviation” – Seattle, Washington. With VIP tours of the 737 and 777 factories, a handover ceremony, a few surprises thrown in, and culminating with the actual delivery flight from Seattle’s Boeing Field, this was not an event to be missed. Usually delivery flights are a perk not open to many members of the press or generally public as they are reserved for employees and crew. They are unscheduled FAA part 91 flights. Often times they operate with little cabin service as if a flight operates with less then 19 passengers, no flight attendant is required. Every airline handles them differently. Some carriers press the aircraft almost directly into service while others make each delivery at least somewhat of a special event. In this case, it would be a first class event. As a bonus, we were joined by Brandon Farris – @brandonsblog of AirlineReporter.com, Jason Rabinowitz – @AirlineFlyer of NYCAviation.com@AAdvantageGeek, Tulsa based AvGeek and KOKI-TV Fox 23 Chief Meteorologist James Aydellott, and a few other members of the press.

RENTON PRESS

Our “AAdventure” began with a trip to Boeing’s Renton plant.  Renton is a real treat as it is not open for public tours and photography is generally prohibited. This is the most prolific airliner plant in history, and one key to American’s fleet renewal plan. At a relatively compact 278 hemmed-in acres, Renton lives in the shadow of its larger sibling plant in Everett, but in terms of importance to airlines and the Boeing Company Renton plays second fiddle to no one. Interestingly enough we learn the Renton plant was the largest building in the world by volume until Everett was constructed in the late 1960s. Renton is the exclusive final assembly home of the world’s best selling airliner, the Boeing 737, while Airbus builds its A320 family jets in 3 locations, with a 4th to come in Mobile.

Extra: Boeing produced 737 Renton Production Upsurge Video

 


RENTON BOEING ASSY PLANT EXT-2 copy

 

RENTON HANGER DOOR

The dizzying “tale of the tape” continues with more world-beating stats. As of a few years ago, Renton produced 42% of the world’s entire jet fleet. Throughout its 80 year history beginning as a plant in WWII for the B-29 where up to 150 planes per month were produced. Since then Renton has been the home of the entire production run of the 707, 720, 727, 757, BBJs, and all but 271 of the world’s 7,491 delivered 737s as of February, 2013. With a bulging order book of over 3,166 jets between the current Next Gens and future Max variant, 200 along of which are destined to American, the Renton factory rolls out a new aircraft on each of its 2 moving production lines every 11 days. A third line produces the military 737 version, the P-8A Poseidon in a separate building. Boeing is now preparing a third production line in the main 737 Renton final assembly factory for the new 737 Max and most impressively just stepped up its monthly production operating on 2 shifts per day to 38 aircraft per month – a record for any commercial airliner production. In the first quarter of 2014, that rate will increase to 42 aircraft per month. This was accomplished by adding a position to line 2 to allow both lines to output 19 aircraft per month.  Line 1 slowed from 21 to 19 while line 2 went from 14 to 19 aircraft per month. Boeing will step up the supply chain to get to 42 aircraft per month but the line capacity is already in place. Even at that increased rapid production rate, it will take over 6 years to clear the order books. This relatively compact factory of 760,000 square feet is undergoing a number of changes to cope with the production surge and new Max line (parallel to 737 Line 1). This is necessitating the construction of a new 75,000 square foot building which houses buyer-furnished equipment. That’s a lot of “wow” considering not that long ago Boeing actually contemplated alternate 737 production sites such as the acquired McDonnell Douglas plant in Long Beach or shutting down Renton completely. In fact, quite a bit of Boeing owned land around the factory was sold off, some of this property has become a shopping center. “Renton the factory” is literally surrounded by “Renton the city”. Space is so tight and the production supply chain just in time, there are fuselages waiting in the parking lot after being transported via railroad from supplier Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas.

This American Airlines Boeing 737-800 is seen in the "New American" livery in the "Day 9 position (of 11) having just had its engines attached. Since ordering 200 737-800s and Max's, American is taking delivery of 2 new 737s per month. In the foreground are seats from another airline.

This American Airlines Boeing 737-800 is seen in the “New American” livery in the “Day 9 position (of 11) having just had its engines attached. Since ordering 200 737-800s and Max’s, American is taking delivery of 2 new 737s per month. In the foreground are seats from another airline.

RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 2 DAY 5 -2 copy

The Renton Boeing 737 Final Assembly Factor just upped its monthly airplane output to 38 aircraft per month via 2 moving assembly lines. In 2014, this will increase to 42 aircraft per month.

RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - PARTS TOILETS copy

Toilets await installation on the 737 Renton line.

RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - PARTS SKY CABIN ROOF-2 copy

Sky Cabin ceiling panels and galley bulkhead components on the 737 Renton line.

RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 2 - DAY 1-3 CU-2 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 2 - COPA 737-3 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - FULL SHOT TO DAY 1 TO 4-1 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAYS 6 TO 9 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAYS 1 TO 3 FUSELAGES - 1 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAY 7 TO 9 TUI-4 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAY 7 TO 9 TUI-3 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAY 5 TO 7 TUI-2 copy RENTON BOEING 737 LINE 1 - DAY 4 WING JOIN TURKISH copyRENTON BOEING 737 SIGN-9 MOVING LINE copy

Overhead bins await install on the Boeing 737 lines at Renton.

Overhead bins await install on the Boeing 737 lines at Renton.

2 Boeing 737-800 fuselages have just arrived by railroad car from Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas. They wait in the parking lot.

2 Boeing 737-800 fuselages have just arrived by railroad car from Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas. They wait in the parking lot.

RENTON BOEING 737 IN PARKING LOT-2 TAIL copy Extra: Look for a detailed story “Renton’s Renaissance to the Max” on the history of the Renton plant and how it’s preparing for the Max and further ramping up of 737 production. This post will appear in the next few weeks on Airchive.com

 After a quick visit to the Renton plant’s employee restaurant Rosie’s Diner (named after “Rosie The Riveter”, American had another treat up its sleeve: a visit to the Boeing wide-body plant at Paine Field where the 777-300 is built. Once at Everett, we met a chartered American Boeing 737-800 carrying 101 selected key American team members who would be joining us for the 777 tour, handover event, and delivery flight. They were chosen from around the system for going above and beyond the call of duty during the restructuring. More on these staff AA refers to as “some of our rockstars” in our next post.

EVERETT 2013 - AA 737 ARRIVES

The specially chartered American Boeing 737-800 with the 100 selected “American All Stars” onboard blocks into Paine Field.

EVERETT 2013 - AA STAFF NAMETAGS

The name tags of some of the “American Rockstars” await their recipients.

As we drive in, we pass by the Boeing flight line, teeming with brand new 747s, 777s, and especially 787s lying in wait toward the largest building in the world by volume. A big highlight is a Dreamlifter with its rear fuselage swung open as well as 2 of British Airways (AA’s JV Partner’s) first 787s.  We also spot the new Everett Boeing Delivery Center that opened less then weeks prior to our visit in the distance.

EVERETT 2013 - LOT 787

A LOT Polish Boeing 787 Dreamliner ready to take back to the skies.

EVERETT 2013 - DREAMLIFTER AND BA 787

The first British Airways bound Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Dreamlifter with its tail swung open at Everett.

EVERETT FLIGHT LINE-2 copy

The famous flight line at Boeing’s wide-body assembly plant at Paine Field at Everett is seen here. This is home to assembly of the 747, 767, 777, and 787 programs.

EVERETT FLIGHT LINE - 787-1 copy

Many Boeing 787 Dreamliners in various stages of assembly remain scattered about Paine Field, an issue only exacerbated by the just recently lifted FAA grounding order. American is due to receive its 787s beginning in 2014.

EVERETT DLIFTER FLIGHTLINE

The 4 Boeing Dreamlifters are key to the 787 program. At 65,000 cubic feet, its cargo hold is the largest in the world – even larger then an AN-225 or C-5A Galaxy. The Dreamlifter can hold three times the volume of a 747-400F freighter

EVERETT DREAMLIFTER-2 EVERETT ASSY HALL-5 EVERETT ASSY HALL-4 EVERETT 787 LINE

787 DREAMLINERS IN WAIT-2 copy

The Boeing Everett Factory building alone covers 98 acres. Originally completed for the 747 in the 1968, this massive fortress has been expanded twice from the original 42.8 acres to 63.3 acres in 1980 for the 767 expansion to the present size for the 777. With its eye-popping factoids, Everett is a place that would make Gulliver seem small. It is 114’ 2” tall and measures 1,614’ X 3,500’. At one time, the building had its own microclimates that created rain and clouds. The four hanger doors are 300’ X 8’, which is about the same as the size of an American football field. The largest digital mural graphic in the world on the south side of the plant is more than 100,000 square feet. At 4.3 million square feet, 75 National Football League fields could fit inside. There is no climate control. In the winter, machinery, body heat and residual heat from the light keeps it warm, in the Summer the doors are open as A/C. Inside, amidst all this activity it is remarkably orderly and quiet.

EVERETT ASSY HALL-6

The Everett Boeing Final Assembly Building has been expanded 3 times with the size doubled since it was first built in the late 1960s.

EVERETT ASSY HALL-1 EVERETT ASSY HALL-3 Extra: Airchive.com “Inside Boeing’s Everett Factory” Gallery

About 110,000 people visit Everett alone, but photography and up close access is generally prohibited. We begin on the overlook where we witness 747-8s, 787-8s, and the 777 lines. This being a VIP tour, we were shepherded over on the floor to the single Boeing 777 line where American’s 777-300ERs are produced, including 1 just beginning production while another is in paint. These are American’s 7th and 8th 777-300ERs scheduled to be delivered as they are no longer taking any more 777-200ERs. Whereas the 787 production line is remarkably uncluttered due to its unique but not altogether successful off-site supply chain, the 777 line is chock a block full of tooling and parts. Looks are deceiving, however. This impressive, efficient U-shaped moving production line (inspired by the Renton 737 lone) now produces 8.3 777s per month in what’s believed to be the largest integrated moving line in the world. Working 5 days a week, round the clock in 3 shifts, It moves at a rate of about 1.8 inches per minute. The 3,000,000 parts provided by 500 global suppliers produce a 777 every 48 days. When the program began production in 1994, it took well over 100 days to produce one. With 1,066 of the world’s best selling wide-body airliner delivered since production began in 1994 and another 400 on order, this line is crucial to Boeing’s wide-body cash cow. After a 777 is rolled out, it is about 20 days to the first Boeing test flight or sooner if paint is happening off-site). From roll out to customer delivery is usually around 30 days.

EVERETT AIR INDIA 787 - 5 copy

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner production rate in Everett has increased to 5 per month with 2 per month completed at North Charleston, SC. The production rate has yet to be compromised by the just ended 3 month FAA grounding order.

EVERETT 777 FACTORY LINE-5

The Boeing 777 production line seems much busier and cluttered then the 787 line, yet it is a paragon of efficiency. This moving line has just upped its production to 8 aircraft per month.

EVERETT 2013 - FULL 787 LINE

British Airways’ third Boeing 787 Dreamliner nears completion on the Everett factory line.

EVERETT 2013 - 787 DELIVERY LOGOS

These tail logos are added to the factory door each time a new 787 is rolled out from Everett.

EVERETT 777 FACTORY LINE-8

This sign indicates the factory flow of the Boeing 777

EVERETT 777 FACTORY LINE-1

Fuselage components in the systems integration area of the Boeing 777 line. The Boeing 777-300ER is now gaining the bulk of the orders, along with a few 777-200 LRs and 777-200 freighters.

EVERETT 777 FACTORY LINE-2 EVERETT 777 FACTORY LINE-3

EVERETT 2013 - WINDOW PANELS

Side window panels await installation on an Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER

EVERETT 2013 - UNDER KLM 777-300 WING

Under the raked winglet of a Boeing 777-300ER destined for Thai Airways

EVERETT 2013 - TOOLS FOR LINE NUMBER

Tools and fasteners assigned to each line number are packed at the ready for a given aircraft. It’s this type of production efficiency that has allowed Boeing to cut in half the days to assemble a 777 since the program began.

EVERETT 2013 - THAI 777-300 COCKPIT

The front end view of a Boeing 777-300ER destined for Thai Airways about three-quarters away through final assembly.

EVERETT 2013 - KLM 777-300 FROM ABOVE

This KLM Boeing 777-300ER is about to have its GEnx engines hung and is just days away from roll-out in the final position.

EVERETT 2013 - FACTORY DIRECTORY SIGN

The entire Boeing Everett factory floor plan map for the world’s largest building by volume.

EVERETT 2013 - ERIC VANAVERY AND 777 SIGN

The head of the Boeing 777-300ER final assembly, Erik Nelson, was our tour guide.

EVERETT 2013 - ENGINE SPARS

Closeup of engine mounts awaiting their massive GEnx power plants on a KLM Boeing 777-300ER.

EVERETT 2013 - 777 RAW FUSELAGE

A raw fuselage section of a Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER

EVERETT 2013 - 777 SERVICE READY WING LAY DOWN

This “service ready wing” for the Boeing 777-300ER is about to enter wing/body join

EVERETT 2013 - AA 777-300 #8 CARGO HOLD

Inside the raw cargo hold of American’s 8th Boeing 777-300ER. From this point forward, American is only ordering and accepting 777-300ERs.

EVERETT 2013 - 777 SERVICE READY WING LAY DOWN-2

Another shot of the “service ready wing” area

EVERETT 2013 - 777 LAVATORIES

Lavatories ready for installation on a 777-300ER in systems integration

EVERETT 2013 - 777 BINS AND OVERHEAD

Oxygen masks and overhead bins being installed on a 777-300ER for Korean Air.

EVERETT 2013 - 777 COCKPIT

A 777-300 cockpit awaits mating to a fuselage at the Boeing Everett plant.

EVERETT 2013 - 777 FUSELAGE INTERIOR

An Air Canada Boeing 777-300 ER cabin assembly in the systems integration area. Much cabin work is completed before the aircraft heads to wing/body join.

EVERETT 2013 - 777 CARGO HOLD

Cargo hold of an Air Canada Boeing 777-300 ER

  EVERETT 2013 - FULL 777 LINE ABOVE-2 EVERETT 2013 - FULL 777 LINE ABOVE EVERETT 2013 - KOREAN AIR 773 FUSELAGE PLUG EVERETT 2013 - 777 MANUFACTURING LINE EVERETT 2013 - 777 LANDING GEAR

After a day of sensual overload, we were taken back to our hotels for a few minutes of rest, as “The Big Show” was about to begin. Handover events and deliveries are often held at Paine Field at the Future of Flight Museum and in the future the recently opened Everett Boeing Delivery Facility, American chose to go even bigger by holding its acceptance event for N722AN at Seattle’s Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. This museum, the larges private air and space museum in the world, is known to nearly everyone with a serious interest in aviation, particularly commercial aviation. Among the museum’s many artifacts are the first Boeing 747 “City of Everett”, the 737 prototype, the first presidential jet, a VC-137B, British Airways Concorde G-BOAG, the only one west of Washington D.C; an American Airlines Boeing 727-200, an ex-Lockheed Air Canada Lockheed L-1049 Super Connie, the only surviving Lockheed M-21 Blackbird, the only surviving example of one of Boeing’s first airliners – the 80A, Boeing’s first factory “The Red Barn”, and now the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer. The Museum of Flight can easily occupy a full day or two, but we only had an hour to tour before America’s Acceptance Event.

MOF BOEING 727-3 copy

American Airlines donated this Boeing 727-223, registration N874AA, to the Museum of Flight. It was delivered to American at Boeing Field on April 13, 1978. It spent its entire career with American until it was donated to the Museum of Flight on Jauary 20, 2003. It was the 1,333th 727 off the line and flew 65,011 hours with 39,038 landings. American’s last scheduled 727 flight was from Miami to Raleigh/Durham on April 30, 2002.

MOF BOEING 80A-1 copy

The Museum’s Model 80A-1, equipped with three Pratt & Whitney 525-horsepower “Hornet” engines, was retired from service with United in 1934. In 1941, it became a cargo aircraft with a construction firm in Alaska. To carry large equipment, including a massive 11,000-pound (4,950 kg) boiler, a cargo door was cut into the plane’s side. After the war, the 80 was stored and then discarded. It was recovered from a dump in 1960 and eventually brought to Seattle for restoration. It is the only surviving example of the Boeing Model 80 series.

MOF AIR FORCE ONE VC137B-2 copy

The first presidential jet plane, a specially built Boeing 707-120, is known as SAM (Special Air Missions) 970. This aircraft, as well as any other Air Force aircraft, carried the call sign “Air Force One” when the president was aboard. Delivered in 1959 to replace Eisenhower’s Super-Constellation, the high-speed jet transport is a flying Oval Office with a modified interior and sophisticated communication equipment. It was modified to B “Turbofan” standard in the early 1960s. SAM 970 has carried presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon as well as VIPs such as Nikita Khrushchev (on his tour of the U.S.) and Henry Kissinger (secret advance trips to China).
By 1962, SAM 970 was replaced by a newer Boeing VC-137C., Sam 2600 and 2700 during the Kennedy Administration, but SAM 970 remained in the presidential fleet ferrying VIPs and the Vice-President until June of 1996.
This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It resides across the street from the museum in the Airpark.

MOF-CONCORDE-1 copy

Concorde G-BOAG was the 14th Concorde built. It made it’s maiden flight in 1978 and was delivered to British Airways on February 6, 1980. Concorde 214 had a less than glamorous start to its life as G-BFKW. After it was built and with no buyer, it was loaned to BA to cover for a 6 month period, while G-BOAC was being repaired at Filton.
After an aborted flight to New York on 26th April 1980 the aircraft was grounded with a water contaminated hydraulic system. The aircraft did not fly again for more than a year, but at a cost of one million pounds re-entered into service, this time as G-BOAG, in Feb 1981.
With a lack of parts for its Concorde fleet BA grounded and used “Alpha Golf” as it main spares source for a period of time up until 1984 when with parts availabe from the newly acquired G-BBDG. “G-BOAG” was returned to service and was the first to fly the the BA “Landor” livery in 1984 in preparation for the privatization of BA. It was the last Conorde to be repainted in the new Chathman livery which continues on BA today. On October 24, 2003 it made its final flight from New York before joining G-BOAE and G-BOAF on a low circuit of London and then touching down at Heathrow together to mark the last day of Concorde commercial flights.
G-BOAG’s final flight was on November 3-5, 2003 when it flew from London Heathrow to Boeing Field via New York JFK. For the time being, it sits outside in the elements at the Airpark across from the Museum of Flight.

MOF SR71-1 copy

The Blackbird family of aircraft cruise at speeds of more than Mach 3 and fly over 85,000 feet (25,500 m) in altitude. Conceived nearly 50 years ago, Blackbirds remain the fastest and highest flying air-breathing production aircraft ever built. This M-21 is a unique variant of the A-12, the earliest Blackbird type. Built for a CIA program code-named “Tagboard,” the M-21 carried unpiloted vehicles for intelligence gathering. These drones were intended for launch from the M-21 “mother ship” for flights over hostile territories. Design features of the M-21 include the second seat for the Launch Control Officer and the launch pylon on which the drone is mounted.
The Museum’s M-21 was built in 1963, and is the sole surviving example of its type.

MOF REDBARN-2 copy

This is the “Red Barn”, a registered historic site also known as Building No. 105. In the early 1900s it was Boeing’s original manufacturing plant when aircraft were manufactured from fabric and wood. It was donated to the museum in the 1960s at its opening.

MOF BOEING 737-4 copy

The Museum’s aircraft is the first production 737. The prototype made its first flight with Brien Wygle and Lew Wallick at the controls on April 9, 1967. Boeing used the 737 as a flight test aircraft before it became NASA’s Transport Systems Research Vehicle in 1974. Based at the Langley Research Center in Virginia, the 737 was used to test many technological innovations including a virtual cockpit, electronic flight displays, and airborne wind shear detection systems.
On September 20, 1997, NASA retired the airplane and donated it to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. It now had only a still very youthful 3297 hours total flight time. It was flown to Moses Lake, Washington where a more benign climate would allow it to be stored until it could be placed on permanent display at the Museum’s main facility at Boeing Field in Seattle. The airplane was maintained in “active” storage, meaning it was kept airworthy and able to make the flight to Seattle with little advance notice or heavy maintenance required. In 2003, the Museum decided to move the airplane to an area on the west side of East Marginal Way, across from the Museum, that had been donated by Boeing for large aircraft display. In August 2003, a NASA team from Langley Research Center in Virginia inspected and tested the airplane to satisfy themselves that it was indeed airworthy. (Of course it was!) On September 21, 2003, having received authorization from NASA, the airplane made its final flight – 33 minutes – from Moses Lake to Boeing Field. It parked on the Boeing flight line, across the ramp from the stall it had been parked in when it made its first flight 36 1/2 years before. Brien Wygle, Captain on the first flight, was aboard for the last one. On Saturday, November 22, 2003, she was towed across East Marginal Way to join the first jet Air Force One, the 747 Prototype, Concorde, and other historic aircraft. She is now a mere stones throw from the Thompson Site factory, from which she rolled out in December 1966.
This aircraft, which never entered commercial service, is on loan from NASA, Langley Research Center.

MOF BOEING 747-11-2 copy

The “City of Everett”, N747001, the Museum of Fight’s aircraft was the first 747 ever built – serial number 001 and in fact is the world’s first “Jumbo Jet”. On 30 September 1968, the first 747 was rolled out of the Everett assembly building before the world’s press and representatives of the 26 airlines that had ordered the airliner. Over the following months, preparations were made for the first flight, which took place on February 9, 1969, with test pilots Jack Waddell and Brien Wygle at the controls and Jess Wallick at the flight engineer’s station. Despite a minor problem with one of the flaps, the flight confirmed that the 747 handled extremely well. The 747 was found to be largely immune to “Dutch roll”, a phenomenon that had been a major hazard to the early swept-wing jets.Later, this aircraft served as a testbed for 747 systems improvements and new engine developments for other Boeing commercial jets, including the state-of-the-art Boeing 777 engine program. Its last flight was in the late 1990s.

 Extra: Airchive.com: “Museum of Flight Gallery – Seattle, Washington”

As mentioned before after all the American team members has been through, they deserved a party. American invited 101 of their “AA Rockstars” to come along on the 777-300ER delivery flight they dubbed “The Rockstar Ride”. These handpicked folks who had gone above and beyond the call of duty during the restructuring were chosen by their peers, management, and senior leadership from around the system to take part in this special event. They were treated to a VIP tour of the 777 line and then a Boeing / GE sponsored gala event at the Museum of Flight. In a very thoughtful gesture, American invited Boeing to select 6 employees to come along on the delivery flight. Once at DFW, the Boeing team would be feted to some true Texas hospitality and tours of American maintenance, IOC, flight training, and even be allowed to try out the emergency evacuation simulator.

EVERETT - ANDREA AND KENT AND AA 737

Our wonderful American Airlines Corporate Communications hosts Andrea Huguely and Kent Powell await the arrival of the “AA Rockstars” on their special 737 charter from DFW.

Boeing and GE made their guests feel very welcome with their own blend of “Flagship Service” with a delicious meal of Pacific Northwest Salmon, Steak, and Halibut as well as “sommelier worthy” wine. The Senior VP of Global Sales for Boeing, toasted the American team by saying “This 777-300ER will be a moneymaker. You have been through tough times and weathered the storm. You will once again be the dominant carrier like you were for many decades. We are proud to be your partner and look forward to the New American’s resurgence as the premiere carrier worldwide. We’ll be doing this again in about a year and a half when you take delivery of your first 787″.  After thunderous applause, he presented the company with a large scale 777-300ER model for display at AA Headquarters. GE then presented its own gift to American, a gorgeous sculpture made from a fan blade of the 777-300ERs engine, the GE90-115B. The AvGeeks in the crowd like myself salivated over these two gifts.

AA 773 DEDICATION TABLE SETTING MENU

Now, this meal provided by Boeing and GE is truly “Flagship Service”.

AA 773 DEDICATION - JASON MODEL

Jason Rabinowitz, co-editor of NYC Aviation, attempts to “help himself” to one of the American Airlines 777-300ER models on display. He didn’t win a model, but went one better when he won one of the ceremonial keys to the 777-300ER in a raffle the next day.

AA 773 DEDICATION TABLE SETTING

AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 GE FAN BLADE-3

GE presents its gift of a GE fan blade sculpture. All guests were given a small version as a gift.

AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 BIG MODEL-2

Boeing presented this large model of a 777-300ER in the “New American” livery as a gift to its first 777-300ER customer in the United States. Sadly, this couldn’t fit in the author’s backpack so it will be on display at American’s Headquarters in Ft. Worth, TX.


AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 STAFF AND MODEL AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 JON SNOOK RAFFLE AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 GE FAN BLADE-2 AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 GE FAN BLADE-1 AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 BIG MODEL-1 AA 773 DEDICATION - AA 773 BIG CROWD

Then came some very special prize drawings. American raffled off the cabin classes the teams would be flying in, 2 777-300ER models, the names of the 3 employees who would sign the delivery certificate, perform the ribbon cutting, and receive ceremonial keys. With that, the event was over. We all headed back to our hotels, well most of us anyway, as Delivery Day would start bright and early the next day. What we didn’t know at the time was that there would be a sudden, unexpected change of plans….

N722AN, American's 6th Boeing 777-300ER at Boeing Field on the day it was delivered - April 24, 2013

N722AN, American’s 6th Boeing 777-300ER at Boeing Field on the day it was delivered – April 24, 2013

"Proud Eagle" - American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER N722AN at Boeing Field awaits its delivery flight to DFW.

“Proud Eagle” – American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER N722AN at Boeing Field awaits its delivery flight to DFW.

AA 773 AT NIGHT - 1AA 773 BOARDING PASS - 1

Part 2 of our story “SpeciAAl Delivery Flight Event: American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER – Onboard the Exclusive Customer Acceptance Flight, Handover Ceremony & Delivery Flight with a Sudden, Unexpected Twist” posts in a few days.

AA BOEING 773 DELIV FLIGHT - RIBBON CUTTING

Did you like this article? Share it with your friends!
Airways Magazine