EVERETT — Major assembly for the newest — and biggest — version of the Boeing Dreamliner, the 787-10, has started two weeks ahead of schedule. Workers at Kawasaki Heavy Industries began putting together part of the new airplane’s fuselage Wednesday.
The 787-10, which Boeing workers and executives simply call the Dash 10, is a stretched version of the 787-9, first delivered to launch customer Air New Zealand in mid-2014. The Dash 10 is slated for first delivery in 2018.
Ninety-five percent of the two 787 versions’ design and production are identical, according to Boeing.
“We are taking all the right steps to ensure we integrate the 787-10 into the production system smoothly,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President Ken Sanger said in a news release. He oversees 787 airplane development.
That means making the Dash 10 should be cheaper and less risky than earlier 787 versions, according to the release.
The airplane’s detailed design was set in early December, also ahead of schedule.
All 787-10s will be assembled at Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, which builds the composite material fuselages for all Boeing Dreamliners. Both South Carolina and the plant at Paine Field in Everett assemble the smaller 787-8 and 787-9.
The aerospace giant says that the 787-10’s fuel use and emissions will be 25 percent less than older airplanes it is expected to replace, such as Boeing’s 777-200 and Airbus’ A330 and the handful of A340s still flying.
Boeing also contends that the Dash 10 will outperform newer Airbus airplanes by 10 percent. Executives at the European airplane maker make similar claims about the A350-900, which is about the same size as the 787-10 and flies even farther — 7,600 nautical miles versus 6,430 for the Dash 10.
What really matters, though, is what airline executives think of the airplanes. So far, the A350-900, which entered service in 2015, has outsold the Dash 10, garnering 580 orders compared to 162 for the Dash 10, according to the companies’ websites. However, most of those A350 orders came in 2007 and 2008, before Boeing had committed to the 787-10. Airbus has posted more cancellations than new orders for the past two years.
Both the A350 and 787 are contending for a major order — 50 to 70 airplanes — from Emirates Airlines. The Gulf carrier is close to a decision, the airline’s president, Tim Clark said last week.