Tip pays off for aviation enthusiasts

Tip pays off for aviation enthusiasts
Photo: Charles Conklin
EVERETT, Wash. -- Photographer and aviation enthusiast Charles Conklin managed to get a few pictures of the first nearly-finished Boeing 787 as it rolled out of an assembly hangar early Tuesday morning.

Conklin said he got a tip that the plane would be rolling out sometime late Monday or early Tuesday, but the informant wasn't sure exactly when it would happen.

He drove to the factory with his camera and telephoto lens so he could get shots from outside the Boeing property. For the first two hours he just sat and waited.

"I wasn't sure whether the tip was going to pay off," he said. "I basically gave myself a cutoff of midnight, and that's when things finally started happening."

The hangar doors opened and the 787 jet was rolled out and into a nearby paint hangar. The whole process took about 40 minutes, Conklin said.

Conklin, who is also a private pilot, said he's always been interested in aviation but didn't realize how popular the first photos of the nearly-complete 787 would be.

"I'm kind of surprised," he said.

The photos have been picked up by several news organizations and many aviation web sites and blogs.

Conklin said his tipster was Jon Ostrower, who operates the Flightblogger web site.

Jon started the site in March and said he's seen traffic to the blog grow steadily with his coverage of the 787.

He started receiving tips from Boeing employees about assembly and development of the aircraft, and said that he knew back in May an approximate date for the 787's move to the paint hangar.

When he received tips with a more exact time he passed the info on to Conklin, who was a reader of his blog.

"I was amazed that anyone had actually used my tip," he said. "(Conklin) just took it and ran with it."

Ostrower says he has no connection to the Boeing Co. and works in Boston in an unrelated field. 

He said he's always been fascinated with planes and was amazed when Conklin's photos showed up in his e-mail inbox on Tuesday.

"From an aviation enthusiast's standpoint it really is extraordinary," he said of the 787's progress.

The Boeing employees who tipped him about the rollout weren't trying to spoil anything, Ostrower said, but rather wanted the world to see what they've been up to and the hard work that has been put in to the new aircraft.

"They deserve all the credit in the world," he said, adding that he hopes to be here to see the plane's first flight in person.

The new jetliner is due to be delivered in May 2008, and is now sold out for delivery until 2013.

Boeing employees have been rushing to finish the jet in time for its formal rollout ceremony on July 8, 2007.

The 787 will be the first large commercial airliner built mostly from light, sturdy composite materials instead of aluminum, making the plane more fuel-efficient and less expensive to maintain.

Boeing has lined up a vast network of suppliers around the globe that are manufacturing large pieces of the 787, which are then flown on a superfreighter to the final assembly plant in Everett, north of Seattle, where the plane is essentially snapped together.

See more of Conklin's photos: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/general_aviation/read.main/3478111/