Boeing 787 testing moves into high gear, with systems and fuselage trials

Los Angeles
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By Guy Norris in Los Angeles

Initial testing of 787 systems software and hardware is ramping-up following the delivery of early equipment sets from suppliers and the distribution of key communications processors, which allow suppliers to test components by connecting from all over the world to an integrated test vehicle (ITV) in Seattle. Testing has also been carried out on 787 composite fuselage barrel sections.

The first Rockwell Collins- developed end-node ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) are being distributed to the myriad suppliers plugging into the aircraft’s Common Core System (CCS), most of which is being replicated for test in the ITV. “These are the chips that allow everyone to communicate with the network,” says 787 systems chief engineer Mike Sinnett. “The good news is we got a first-pass success and we were relying on that, which isn’t easy. It’s like stepping up to the plate in baseball and hitting a home run first time.”

The Common Core System, developed by the UK’s Smiths Aerospace, concentrates the processing functions of many different systems in one spot to save weight, cost and power. Using an open-standards computing “platform” where more than 80 functions are combined into one computer system, the CCS builds on foundations laid by the C-130 Aircraft Modernisation Programme upgrade and the 777’s Aircraft Information Management System, but is greatly simplified by comparison. The 777 has around 80 separate computer systems with about 100 different devices, versus 30 computer systems on the 787.

“The components of the CCS prototype have just begun shipping, and people are writing software and are now getting hardware to run for the first time,” says Sinnett, who adds the testing approach is a step beyond the all-inclusive Integrated aircraft systems laboratory method developed for the 777. “This time we don’t have a single room that pulls it all together because that adds flow [time] to the schedule. So instead we have a more virtual capability, and we have around 40% of the testing capability here.”

The ITV is “a combination of the traditional ‘iron bird’ rig and a test unit for the functionality of power systems”, he adds. The work complements testing at other sites including the integrated systems laboratory in Seattle and the Hamilton Sundstrand applications power systems integration facility (APSIF) in Rockford, Illinois. “The APSIF is coming on line, and we’re making some design changes based on technical discoveries,” says Sinnett. “We’re doing some experimental things to understand what the power qualities are along the way.”

For more information about the Boeing 787, including test flights, videos and pictures please visit our 787 page