NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Boeing Co. is about to start assembling the biggest version of its Dreamliner, the 787-10.
Two fuselage sections were moved Wednesday to the final assembly line at Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. The plane is slated to be loaded onto the line Sunday, according to the blog All Things 787.
A company spokesman would only confirm that the plane will begin final assembly this month.
After it leaves the plant, the 787-10 is set to begin flight testing in 2017, with first delivery to launch customer Singapore Airlines expected in 2018.
The 787-10 will be the first Boeing airliner assembled only in South Carolina. The other two versions — the 787-8 and 787-9 — are produced in Everett and North Charleston.
During a ceremony for Boeing employees this past week, Darrel Larson, the 787-10 program’s build integration leader, called the moment “a watershed day for the company, the state and the region,” the Charleston Post and Courier reported.
Boeing contractor Kawasaki Heavy Industries started producing parts of the airplane’s fuselage in March.
The 787-10 essentially is a stretched version of the 787-9. It is 18 feet longer and can hold 330 passengers, 40 more than the 787-9.
The aerospace giant has 154 orders for the 787-10. That is 10 fewer orders than it had a year ago, when the company announced that it had locked in the airplane’s design. Orders for new airplanes, especially for twin-aisle aircraft, have plummeted this year. If the 787-10 performs well in flight tests, it could trigger new orders from airlines.
So far, the 787-9 is the bestselling Dreamliner, with 623 orders through October. Customers have placed 431 orders for the smallest version, the 787-8.
Emirates Airline still is considering whether to order 787-9s and 787-10s or Airbus’ A350-900.
Boeing delivered the 500th 787 produced Friday. The airplane was purchased by AerCap, a leasing company and will be operated by Air France on its Paris to Cairo route starting in January.