Social media's aviation geek was abuzz on Thursday as pictures of shrinkwrapped 125 foot long 737 fuselage cradled on a big red flatbed truck was spotted leaving Boeing's Renton, Washington plant and heading south. 737 fuselages travel by train from Wichita to Washington for assembly, but they are rarely moved on roadways, especially over long distances. After inquiring with Boeing on Thursday as to the backstory behind the mysterious move, we have confirmed details to share. We also filed a request with Washington State Department of Transportation for the permits, but have yet to receive that information.
Boeing confirmed much of what we had gleaned from our sources prior to and after the move began, that the load was, in fact, a P-8A Poseidon fuselage that was being trucked all the way to Boeing's facility at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. It's heading there to support the Poseidon's fatigue testing program. An email from Boeing's communications team to The War Zone stated:
"Following the successful completion of static fatigue testing of one of the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon test aircraft in December, 2017, Boeing Test & Evaluation is now disassembling and shipping components of the test article to various sites for final, detailed inspection. This final inspection is a part of standard fatigue testing and is included in Boeing’s contract with the U.S. Navy for P-8A Poseidon testing."
The American southwest, roughly between China Lake, California, the Nellis Test and Training Range in Nevada, and White Sands, New Mexico definitely gets its fair share of strange aerospace object related convoys, but seeing an entire 737 fuselage skimming along the asphalt would definitely be a surprise for motorists.
The last time a 737 was moved by road was in 2012 when another P-8 fuselage was trucked down to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake for live fire testing.
As for the P-8 Poseidon program in general, the once controversial jet has become a huge success for Boeing. The 100th P-8 is now on the production line and export customers continue to stack up with Australia, India, Norway, and the UK operating the jet or have orders on the books.
The aircraft has proven itself highly capable of a slew of missions, and there are more capabilities in the developmental pipeline. With that in mind, knowing exactly how long a P-8 can last, especially considering it spends more of its life at lower altitudes than its commercial counterpart, is key. And that's exactly what this P-8 has given its life to find out.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com