Boeing 787 Flight Test Aircraft Keeping Busy

 - September 10, 2010, 7:46 AM
The first Boeing 787 took a break from operations at Edwards Air Force Base in California for a week’s worth of trials in Roswell, N.M. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing moved quickly this month to erase any doubts about the progress of the 787 flight-test program after “an assessment of the availability of an engine needed for the final phases of flight test this fall” led it to conclude that it couldn’t deliver the first production airplane until the middle of next year’s first quarter. Last week, all five flight-test airplanes remained active, said Boeing. Four of the five airplanes conducted remote test operations, while ZA005 continued testing from its base of operations in Seattle.
ZA001, the first 787, took a break from operations at Edwards AFB in California for a week’s worth of trials in Roswell, N.M., where plans called for it to perform testing in rejected-takeoff conditions. Last month, ZA001 visited Roswell to conduct wet-runway testing. Boeing had deployed ZA001 to Edwards AFB for several weeks of testing focused on takeoff- and landing-performance conditions.

Meanwhile, the second 787, ZA002, made its way to Iceland for high-latitude and cold-weather testing at Keflavik Airport.

“We’ve been watching for the right weather conditions for some time,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. “The team was happy to see the forecast in Iceland met our needs and we deployed to Keflavik earlier [last] week.”

The hot weather in Yuma, Ariz., where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), provided the needed conditions for another set of tests on ZA003. Boeing had expected its deployment to last until this week.

The fourth airplane has spent an extended time operating out of Victorville, Calif., conducting flight loads survey testing, during which flight-test crew measure external pressure distributions throughout the flight envelope. Boeing expected ZA004 to begin testing in Glasgow, Mont., after it finished its work in California.
In Seattle, engineers attached artificial ice shapes to the leading edges of the wings and horizontal and vertical stabilizer of the fifth 787 to complete another group of tests required for certification. Natural ice testing has already occurred.

“Flight test is staying very busy,” said Fancher. “We continue to be very pleased with the performance of the airplane. We’re definitely putting it through its paces, subjecting it to the harshest environments and conditions to ensure it is ready for revenue service.”

Although the 787 flight-test fleet has conducted more than 1,650 hours of flying during more than 540 flights, Boeing still hasn’t flown the sixth flight-test aircraft, nor did it respond to inquiries about the prospect of two more airplanes joining the program to help expedite certification, now scheduled for mid-February.