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Dreamlifter stops at Boeing

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 11, 2010, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 11, 2010, at 11:23 a.m.

Wichitans driving along South Oliver on Wednesday couldn't help but notice a supersized white-and-blue modified Boeing 747, called the Dreamlifter, sitting near a Boeing hangar.

Its size and massive hump are distinctive.

The Dreamlifter was in Wichita to pick up the 19th forward fuselage section Spirit AeroSystems has built for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. It will deliver it to Boeing's Everett, Wash., plant.

The section has been stuffed with the seats, yokes, rudder pedals, avionics, floors, landing gear and everything needed when the section becomes part of the commercial airliner.

"It's a finished cockpit," said Harold Leslie, Spirit senior manager for 787 systems installation.

The Dreamlifter is one of four specially modified jets Boeing uses for shipment of major sections of the 787. It's the largest cargo aircraft in the world by volume, Leslie said.

The airplane is about 30 feet longer than a standard 747-400 and holds three times as much, officials say. It can carry about 130,000 pounds.

The Dreamlifter also travels to Korea, Japan and Italy, picking up sections of the 787.

Loading the nose section is a carefully planned event.

To prepare it for travel, the windows and doors of the fuselage are covered, and the section is wrapped and secured to a shipping fixture.

It's then placed onto a specially designed loader that slowly travels from Boeing's south hangar, leased by Spirit, to the aircraft.

In the meantime, a yellow Hyster forklift is used to open the Dreamlifter's tail and swing it open to the left.

Motorized tracks move the section from the loader into the back of the aircraft.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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