Boeing outlines 747-8F certification plan

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Boeing has outlined details of the 747-8F flight test campaign that is due to start early this year after a long delay.

Three aircraft will complete a total of 3,700h of testing, consisting of 1,600h of flight tests and 2,100h of ground tests, says Mohammad "Mo" Yahyavi, 747 VP and general manager.

The flight test fleet for the 747-8F will consist of fully instrumented aircraft designated RC501, RC521 and RC522.

RC501 has been on the flight line since 18 November undergoing functional tests, while RC521 departed the factory on 6 January and moved to the paint hangar on 9 January. RC522 is undergoing factory completion at the second slant position on the 747 final assembly line.

The 747-8F flight test programme will begin at Paine Field, site of the company's final assembly facility where first flight of each test aircraft will take place. Because the 747 and 787 test programmes are running concurrently, Boeing opted to decouple the 747's certification campaign to ensure dedicated resources were available to both certification campaigns, says Yahyavi.

As a result, the 787 fleet will operate out of Seattle's Boeing Field, site of the company's flight test centre, while RC501 will undergo initial airworthiness (IAW) and flutter testing at Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, located 228km (142m) east of Seattle.

Once the IAW and flutter clearance on RC501 is complete, RC521 and RC522 will be cleared to fly, at which point, the fleet will be transferred to Palmdale, California where the remainder of the flight test programme will be based.

Yahyavi says that the all the resources, tools, parts and plans are in place to support certification in order to meet first delivery to launch customer Cargolux in the fourth quarter.

RC521 and RC522 will be delivered to Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) following flight test and refurbishment, while RC501 will be refurbished and delivered to Cargolux.

RC521 is tasked with evaluating the fuel performance, also called nautical air mile performance. With RC522, Boeing will focus on validating the environmental control, hydraulic, electric and electromagnetic interference protection systems, as well as the acoustic performance of the aircraft.

Boeing plans a two-aircraft flight test campaign for the 747-8I passenger variant, the first destined for a VIP customer and the second for Lufthansa.

First delivery of the 747-8I is planned for the fourth quarter of 2011 to an undisclosed VIP customer widely believed to be a Middle Eastern head of state.