In our last installment, the fuselage of our first 737-800 was being loaded on a rail car for the journey from Wichita to the Boeing assembly plant in Renton, Washington. Thanks to these great photos from our friends at Boeing, we can check in on the progress of what will become N8301J. Fellow avgeeks will note that the -800s carry a four-digit N-number, which is a departure from our traditional numbering process.
In the photo above, the fuselage has entered the plant via the overhead cranes. Boeing operates two 737 assembly lines in tandem, and the second assembly hall can be seen behind the aircraft. The mezzanine area between the two halls contains meeting areas, offices, and breakrooms, one of which can be seen under the nose of the fuselage.
N8301J will join two other fuselages in the initial assembly position. The fenced area contains parts that will be needed for this step in the assembly process. If you look closely, you can see that the nose radome has been attached to the fuselage in the center, as have the overwing emergency exit windows.
In the photo above, N8301J is settling down into the assembly bay, which will be its home for the next couple of days. The arched ladder in front of the airplane moves on a track that allows workers access to the top of the fuselage. You can see the ladder at the back of the fuselage at the top of the photo. Also note that the dorsal fins have been attached to the other two airframes. Additional parts are stored on the floor level, underneath the assembly platforms. Several of the tricycles workers use to move around the plant are parked at the foot of the stairs, and if you look closely, you can see the winglet of a Norwegian Airlines aircraft at the lower right of the photo. Once the initial fuselage work is finished, it will be lifted over to the left out of camera range where the wings and landing gear are installed. Then it joins the moving assembly line where the tail flying surfaces, engines, and interior parts like galleys and lavatories are installed, and it will emerge out the other end of the building as an aircraft instead of a tube of metal.