The eagerly anticipated arrival of the 787 Dreamliner here at Farnborough yesterday is a major boost to the troubled program’s credibility. If seeing is believing, this first opportunity for much of the global air transport industry to examine the 787 should bolster belief that the twinjet is just months away from entering commercial service– even though this key milestone is set to slip for a seventh time from late this year into 2011.
The Dreamliner touched down here just a bit before 9 a.m. yesterday after orbiting for a few minutes away from Farnborough in order to arrive in time for the moment to be captured by the assembled media cameras. Boeing assistant chief pilot Capt. Mike Bryan landed the aircraft with the use of reverse thrust after an 8 hour 37 minute overnight flight from Seattle. Comprising the 787 crew were technical test pilot Capt. Ted Grady and production test pilot Capt. John Frischkorn.
The aircraft had been withdrawn from flight-test work last Wednesday for two days of preparation for its inaugural airshow presentation. The over-night flight was conducted at FL350 and proved very valuable in testing the 787’s navigation, radio, satellite and datalink systems.
In addition to the value of displaying the new aircraft to actual and prospective customers on the ground here at Farnborough, 787 program chief test pilot Capt. Mike Carriker emphasized that the 787’s flying visit is an intrinsic part of the flight-test program. For example, as a navigational exercise the aircraft has flown into many new areas of polar and North Atlantic airspace.
Throughout the flight from Seattle (using the simple call sign “Boeing 787,” much to the delight of duty air-traffic controllers and other North Atlantic airspace traffic), flight-test engineers were taking “megabytes” of data as Boeing used the operation to contribute to its thorough understanding of 787 performance and its ability to meet airworthiness requirements.
Boeing had to obtain special U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly in Minimum Navigation Performance Specification (MNPS) airspace, essentially between Flight Levels 285 and 420 (28,500 to 42,000 feet).
Carriker confirmed the perception of increased comfort in the 787’s cabin, which is pressurized to 6,000- rather than 8,000-foot altitude. It becomes particularly apparent on very long flights, he said. “You don’t recognize it [so much] until you fly 12, 14, 16 hours–then you notice.” Still operating on Seattle time yesterday morning, Grady confirmed that it had been possible for the crew to “get a lot of rest” on their overnighter.
Inside the 787
With prominent on-board references to ZA003’s “experimental” status, the cabin is liberally sprinkled with flight-test equipment, cables and other paraphernalia. Many wires are connected to thermo-couples measuring diverse characteristics such as cabin air temperature or on-board vibration at windows, in doorways and in passenger seating areas.
Airframe ZA003 is equipped with 45 seats in the forward cabin and some 78 units at the rear, a sufficient quantity to accommodate a representative number of passengers as Boeing tests the 787’s cabin environment, including equipment such as air-conditioning and galleys. It has no in-flight entertainment systems on board.
This 787, which first flew in March, has the lowest flight time of the Trent 1000-engined fleet, having spent a lot of time in ground testing as Boeing validated environmental control systems and cabin equipment. Other work on the flights to and from Farnborough includes checks of e-mail facilities to Boeing contacts in many parts of the world and use of the aircraft’s electronic flight bag.