Boeing workers will begin assembly of the first 787-9 later this summer. The first two sections -- the horizontal stabilizer and the vertical fin -- arrived in the 787 production area last week.
The sections arrived three weeks ahead of schedule, Randy Tinseth, Boeing vice president of marketing, wrote on his blog.
"This is the kind of performance we're seeing across the entire 787-9 supply chain," Tinseth wrote.
Boeing's 787-9 will be 20 feet longer than the current model, the 787-8, and will seat 40 more passengers. The new model also has a slightly longer range than the 787-8, by about 300 nautical miles. Boeing plans to begin flight testing the first 787-9 in the second half of 2013.
The company will fit assembly of the first 787-9 in with increased production on the 787-8. Boeing announced last Thursday that it had rolled out the first 787-8 assembled at a pace of seven jets monthly, up from five. The company plans to speed assembly between the Everett and North Charleston, S.C., factories to 10 787s monthly by the end of 2013.
Boeing originally planned to deliver the first 787-9 in 2010. But as delays piled up for the 787-8, Boeing pushed back delivery of 787-9 until early 2014. Air New Zealand will be the first customer to receive a 787-9.
"It's hugely exciting to see the first ever 787-9 taking shape because of the significant growth opportunities these aircraft present for our business," Christopher Luxon, CEO of Air New Zealand, said in a statement.
Air New Zealand is scheduled to receive 10 Dreamliners between 2014 and 2017. The 787-9s will enable the carrier to add capacity and "explore new destination opportunities throughout the Pacific Rim," Luxon said.
Boeing has received 355 orders so far for the 787-9 and more than 850 for the 787 program.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; email@example.com.