Two 787s to Return to Seattle

 - November 16, 2010, 6:10 AM

While Boeing continues its investigation into last week’s in-flight fire aboard the second 787 flight test airplane, the company has established a plan to fly two other aircraft, ZA001 and ZA005, back to Seattle from Rapid City, S.D., and Victorville, Calif. Boeing grounded all six of its flight-test articles immediately after the November 9 incident involving ZA002.   

The FAA has reviewed and approved Boeing’s plans to fly the two airplanes to Seattle, the company said in a statement released this morning. At the time of the groundings, ZA001 was undergoing refueling in South Dakota and ZA005 was on remote deployment for testing in California.

The flights, during which the company plans to conduct no testing, follow a series of inspections on the airplanes’ aft electronics bays. A power panel failure in one of the aft electronics bays on ZA002 led to the fire involving the surrounding insulation blankets and forced an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas.

The team investigating the incident in Laredo has developed a detailed understanding of the ZA002 incident, according to Boeing, which added that more work remains to complete the investigation.

New information released by Boeing today indicates that the incident in total lasted less than 90 seconds, that the fire lasted less than 30 seconds and that “the airplane concluded the event in a configuration that could have been sustained for the time required to return to an airport suitable for landing from any point in a typical 787 mission profile.”

Boeing said its team in Texas has finished inspecting ZA002 and has begun to prepare to install a new power panel and new insulation material. The team also is repairing minor structural damage using standard techniques described in the airplane structural repair manual. The team continues to evaluate the timeline for completion of the repair work, said Boeing.

Meanwhile, the company has not yet decided when flight testing of the 787 will resume. “Before that decision can be made, we must complete the investigation and assess whether any design changes are necessary,” said Boeing. “Until that time, Boeing cannot comment on the potential impact of this incident on the overall program schedule.”