Arduous phase of flight-test effort awaits Dreamliner

Washington DC
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Boeing's 787's flight-test programme is nearing its most gruelling phase with a forthcoming visit to remote airfields in the south-west USA to sharpen the edges of its operating envelope.

The lead flight-test aircraft ZA001 will shortly position to Edwards AFB in California for take-off and landing validation and certification testing, which includes velocity minimum unstick trials that will see the rear fuselage deliberately scraped along the runway to establishing minimum flying speeds.

It will then go to Roswell, New Mexico for aerodynamic braking certification, to test the strength and effectiveness of its stopping ability in the event of a rejected take-off at maximum weight.

"Just like any certification programme, you start it up, you have to go define the performance. We've done all the testing that we need to do. We do all the safety, all the fundamental testing, we've done all that and now it's our job to go out and take the airplane and find every ounce, every inch of performance," says 787 chief pilot Mike Carriker.

boeing 787 dreamliner, boeing
 © Boeing

By early August, Boeing had completed more than 1,418h of flight-testing over more than 450 flights, including 1,300h of 2,430h planned for the four Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered aircraft.

ZA001 has completed low-speed aerodynamic validation and certification testing, while ZA002 has been on remote hot weather testing at Sacramento Mather airport in California and Yuma, Arizona.

After ZA003's return from Farnborough, the aircraft was used, along with further interior testing, for validation and certification of the Boeing check-pilot training course. ZA004, based in Victorville, California, has been continuing its flight loads survey, validating the loading assumptions Boeing made during windtunnel testing, while late July brought handling testing in limit winds for ZA005 - the first of two General Electric GEnx-1B powered 787 test aircraft.

Programme sources say the maiden flight of the second GEnx-1B Dreamliner (ZA006) may slip into early September. Boeing maintains it has made no change to its August guidance, however.

First deliveries to launch customer All Nippon Airways are due by year-end, but could slip "a few weeks" into early 2011.

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