SEATTLE — At long last, the first Boeing 777 has been sold.
The first one to roll off the assembly line, that is.
The plane, completed in April 1994 and designated WA001, is scheduled for delivery to Cathay Pacific of Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The launch customer for the 777 line, United Airlines, began taking deliveries of the twinjet in May 1995, but WA001 remained in Boeing’s possession for flight tests, carrying 48 55-gallon water barrels, 34,000 pounds of flight data equipment and 22 racks of computer consoles.
By the time flight testing was completed in April 1997, the plane had logged 1,729 hours in the air and another 1,033 hours in ground tests.
It took another three years to get the plane sold.
Six months ago, Cathay Pacific decided "WA001 was the best solution for getting an airplane quickly to accommodate our growing number of passengers," said Peter Gardner, a U.S.-based vice president of the carrier.
Since then, a Boeing refurbishment team has been preparing the plane, a process that is in some ways more complex than regular assembly, said Mike Heide, leader of Boeing’s refurbishment center.
For example, galleys, lavatories and wire bundles are normally installed as whole units through the fuselage before the airplane sections are joined together. With WA001, mechanics had to split the units in half and load them through airplane doorways, then rejoin them on the plane.
Another task was swapping engines. The plane initially was equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines, reflecting the choice of United as launch customer, but Cathy Pacific specified Rolls-Royce power plants.
A third task was to incorporate all the design changes that had been made in the 777 since WA001 was produced.
Russ Marriman, WA001 program manager, estimated it took about twice as much engineering effort to get the plane ready for Cathay Pacific as to configure a 777 during normal assembly.
Boeing won’t disclose the selling price, but Hawkins said the company made a profit. A new 777-200 has a list price of about $150 million.
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