To facilitate the global effort behind the Boeing 787, Boeing has a fleet of 4 heavily modified 747 aircraft that are used to transport large structural components from Japan & Italy to assembly plants in Everett Washington & Charleston, South Carolina. The fleet is based at the recently completed Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field and is operated under contract by Atlas Air.
Normally, it would take upwards of 30 days for wing structures to travel from Tokyo to Everett by ship but with the Dreamlifter the time is reduced to only 8-12 hours. This allows Boeing to maintain an aggressive 787 manufacturing calendar.
In addition to its signature bulged fuselage design, a unique feature of the Dreamlifter is its swing-tail design that has the tail section of the aircraft swing open like a door on hinges to provide maximum access for loading and unloading of the aircraft.
While I was in Everett last week I was fortunate to witness several Dreamlifter departures and arrivals as well as the bonus of watching a Dreamlifter being loaded with Wing Jigs ahead of a flight to Japan to pick up and return with pairs of 787 wings. During my visit to Everett I had the opportunity to capture the loading process on video which you’ll find below along with a few photos of the Dreamlifter.
I also had the chance to see the Dreamlifter in Anchorage last year so if you would like to see those photos with fantastic mountain backdrops, please visit my Dreamlifter gallery on Aero-Shots.com. You’ll see the Dreamlifter in Anchorage occasionally because it makes a technical stop there when flying between Japan and Charleston.
For more technical data on the Dreamlifter, visit Boeing.com’s dedicated Dreamlifter fact page.