Boeing 787 Moves to Flight Line for Testing

 - May 4, 2009, 6:30 AM

Boeing has moved the first 787 prototype to the flight line in preparation for first flight, scheduled for next month, the company announced yesterday. Fuel testing–the first in the next phase of pre-flight checks the airplane must undergo–will begin in the next few days, the company said. 

“We are making great progress and moving ever closer to first flight,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 Dreamliner program. 

In recent weeks, the 787, designated ZA001, underwent a rigorous series of ground tests, including build verification tests, structures and systems integration tests, landing gear swings and the so-called factory gauntlet–a full simulation of the first flight using the actual airplane. With chief pilot Mike Carriker at the controls, the simulation tested all flight controls, hardware and software. It also included manual and automatic landings and an extensive suite of subsequent ground tests.

“These results give us confidence in our ability to move into further gauntlet testing using either ground power or the airplane’s engines or auxiliary power unit,” said Fancher.

Boeing has finished all structural tests required on the static airframe before first flight. The final test occurred April 21, when engineers subjected the wing and trailing edges to their limit load–or the highest loads expected in service, around 2.5 times the force of gravity.

“We continue to analyze the data, but the initial results are positive,” Fancher said.
On April 13 Boeing subjected the leading edge of the wing to its limit load while the rest of the airplane experienced loads expected at cruise. Last September Boeing completed the so-called “high blow” high-pressure test on the static airframe. During that test, the airframe reached an internal pressure of 150 percent of the maximum levels expected in service, or 14.9 psi.

Boeing has also finished ground vibration testing, which measures the airplane’s response to flutter, on the second flight-test airplane, designated ZA002, meaning the company has finished all the structural tests required before first flight.

While on the flight line ZA001 will undergo additional airplane power and systems tests as well as engine runs. After completing final systems checks and high-speed taxi tests, the airplane will be ready for first flight, on schedule for “later this quarter.”