Rapid retrofitters earn free trip

Herald staff

EVERETT — Some 30 Boeing engineers and mechanics will take a free trip to Hong Kong next week as a reward for their rapid retrofit of the first flying 777.

Boeing and Cathay Pacific airline are paying for the trip, which also will be the delivery flight for "WA001" — a plane considered historic by Boeing because it was the first demonstration model for the 777 family.

Hong Kong-based Cathay bought the plane earlier this year. It was originally finished in 1994 and was put through nearly 2,800 hours of flight and ground tests, then traveled to Asia, Australia, Europe, Central and South America and several Pacific Islands. It had sat idle in the Everett plant since 1997.

Cathay needed the plane to handle increased December traffic this year, so Boeing assembled a team to quickly reconfigure it from a demonstration model to one that can carry passengers and cargo.

It was a difficult task, officials said, because the plane hadn’t been updated with features in more recent models, and because mechanics were installing equipment into an already-completed plane.

For example, galleys, lavatories and wiring typically are installed as whole units within different sections of the plane, and then the units are joined together. But for this job, they had to cut the units in half, load them through the airplane doors and then join them back together inside the plane.

Still, the team was able to get the job done within six months, instead of the usual 10 months, and for that they’re being rewarded with the trip, Everett plant spokeswoman Ida Hawkins said.

The group will leave Dec. 6 and return Dec. 10. Each will receive $500 for shopping while in Hong Kong.

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