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Boeing is celebrating a major milestone in the 787 program: The aircraft manufacturer has begun assembly of its 787th Boeing 787. Airliner Watch is reporting that Boeing has begun final assembly of the -9 variant in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Boeing 787-9 will be delivered to China Southern Airlines in a matter of months as it makes its way through the final assembly line. Upon delivery, China Southern Airlines will still have an additional 13 Boeing 787-9s on order.

Charleston, South Carolina, was not the original production site for the Boeing 787. In 2009, shortly before the aircraft’s first test flight, Boeing announced that it had selected Charleston as its secondary production site for the 787. Today, Charleston serves as Boeing’s main production site for the Dreamliner.

Boeing is currently able to produce 12 787s per month, with 14 per month expected to be the rate of production by 2019. There are more than 1,400 Boeing 787s currently on order, with the largest and newest variant, the -10, having just recently entered service.

Boeing’s Charleston assembly line, the site of the majority of all 787 production (Image from Boeing Images)

The Boeing 787 was first envisioned in the early ’00s as the company looked to fill a growing void — the result of aging 747s and 767s.

It was at this same time that Boeing and its focus groups understood that congestion at large hubs would likely lead to a renewal of point-to-point flights in the future. In July 2004, shortly after Boeing confirmed the new aircraft, All Nippon Airways placed the first order for the aircraft. Three years later in 2007, the first Boeing 787 rolled off of the assembly line. After multiple delays, the Boeing 787 made its first flight on December 15th, 2009.

The 787 initially received a barrage of negative press, and rightfully so as it was by no means a perfect aircraft. From supply chain issues to exploding lithium-ion batteries, the Boeing 787 spent its early years under a microscope. However, the 787 would eventually overcome these issues and go on to be one of the most successful widebody aircraft in history. Soon, there will be 787 787s in the sky flying for more than three dozen airlines on all six inhabited continents.

With the introduction of the Boeing 787 came multiple firsts. The 787 was the first aircraft in history to utilize composite materials for major sections of the fuselage. It featured a unique wing designed to flex upwards up to 26 feet without sustaining damage. The 787 also reintroduced long-haul service to markets that had lost service thanks to its unparalleled fuel efficiency and ideal capacity. While some aircraft such as the Boeing 737 have seen upwards of 9,000 deliveries, the 787th aircraft is a significant milestone in the history of the Boeing 787 program.

H/T: Airliner Watch

Feature image courtesy of byeangel via Flickr.

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