The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) each granted the Boeing 787-9 an amended type certificate, paving the way for Air New Zealand to take delivery of the first production example early this summer, Boeing announced on Monday morning. The FAA also has granted Boeing an amended production certificate, validating that the Boeing production system can produce 787-9s that conform to the design. EASA accepts FAA oversight of Boeing production certificates, just as the FAA accepts EASA oversight of European manufacturers’ production certificates.
Certification comes after five airplanes performed more than 1,500 hours of flight testing, as well as ground and laboratory testing.
“Throughout 787-9 development, the dedication and discipline of our entire global team drove outstanding performance,” said Mark Jenks, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of 787 airplane development. “From the start of assembly last spring to a flawless first flight and now our on-time certification, we thank everyone on the Boeing and partner team as well as our customers for making 787-9 development so successful.”
Certification also means that the FAA has approved time-limited exemptions requested by Boeing that would allow delivery while the company works to solve reliability deficiencies related to the airplane’s ram air turbine (RAT) and a potential defect in the altitude-select dial on the mode control panel (MCP).
The RAT serves as an electrical backup in the event of a dual engine failure, generating enough power to maintain operation of avionics and flight controls. Although the RAT showed no signs of problems during virtually the entire flight-test campaign, a capacitor within the generator control unit (GCU) failed during a non-certification flight test. Boeing expects to introduce a redesign in February. “It’s a capacitor that degrades over time and you have to lose six generators before you need a RAT,” explained 787 program vice president and chief project engineer Bob Whittington. “So when you add up the probabilities it happens well beyond the…criteria that we use for certain ETOPS consideration.
“It’s exactly the same parts [as used on the 787-8]; we just hadn’t seen it,” said Whittington. “So it showed up on a Dash 9 flight test, where the RAT deployed on purpose…I mean it’s part of the test… and then it didn’t generate electricity because the GCU wouldn’t turn on. So it’s been relatively recent.”
The problem with the altitude-select dial centers on its tendency to rotate by as many as two detents when pushed for activation, meaning a pilot could accidently introduce an improper altitude setting. Plans call for installation of a new MPC in May 2015.