Sixth Boeing 787 Takes Flight, Company Reports ‘Good Progress’ with Test Program

 - October 5, 2010, 7:35 AM

The sixth and final Boeing 787 to join the flight test fleet flew for the first time yesterday from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The airplane, ZA006, landed at Seattle’s Boeing Field as planned, but two hours earlier than expected. A Boeing spokesperson said a maintenance message during the flight forced Captains Christine Walsh and Bill Roberson to cut short the mission “as a precautionary measure.” 

ZA006, the second 787 equipped with General Electric GEnx engines to fly,  took off from Paine Field at 11:41 a.m. local time and landed at Boeing Field one hour and four minutes later.

“It's great to have our last flight-test airplane join the fleet,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. “We have been focused on completing the testing required for certification of the 787 with Rolls-Royce engines, because that is the first model we deliver. A great deal of the testing that we’ve done also applies to the 787s with GE engines and won’t need to be repeated.” 

Boeing noted, however, that a smaller portion of testing unique to the engine/airframe combination includes noise trials, extreme weather operations, function and reliability and extended operations. Furthermore, the 787 team must verify uniformity of airplane handling and systems function regardless of engine type. 

Boeing said it plans to conduct some further flight tests with one of the production airplanes, the ninth 787 built, but that it does not consider that airplane a full-time member of the flight-test fleet.

Boeing reports that the Dreamliner team has completed a number of flight-test milestones in recent weeks, including a series of natural and artificial icing tests. The trials indicated no need for changes, it added, and pilots reported that the airplane handled well despite the presence of ice. 

The company has also finished flight loads survey testing, which demonstrates the pressure distribution on the airplane structure throughout the phases of flight in a variety of configurations. The team conducted that testing on ZA004, primarily at the airport at Victorville, Calif. Analysis of this testing continues.

Boeing completed a series of tests that stress the airplane’s brakes, called maximum brake energy testing, in late September at Edwards Air Force Base. It used ZA001 to conduct that testing, as well as a series takeoffs and landings under extreme conditions, including minimum takeoff speed testing. Earlier in the month, ZA001 completed wet runway testing at Roswell, N.M.

The third Dreamliner, ZA003, flew to Glasgow, Mont., to complete community noise testing. All results fell within expectations.

Boeing reports that it has completed all takeoff performance and handling characteristics testing for the Rolls-Royce-powered 787. It will need to perform some further testing with the two 787s equipped with GE engines.

The 787 flight-test program has logged more than 1,900 hours over 620 flights and completed more than 65 percent of the flight-test conditions for 787s with Rolls-Royce engines. Boeing has also completed “well over” 4,000 hours of ground testing on the same airplanes involved in the flight-test program.

Meanwhile, fatigue testing has started at a test rig in Everett, where Boeing has simulated 15 flights. Federal regulations require the company to conduct twice as many flight cycles as any airplane in revenue service. Boeing plans to have completed 10,000 flight cycles before first delivery.