First flight of interiors-fitted 787 slides to March

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First flight of Boeing's third flight test aircraft has moved into March, citing a pre-fitting of flight test instrumentation that the company believes will help the aircraft fly more often.

"We've got some open work to complete on the airplane and have decided to accelerate the installation of some flight test equipment that we had originally planned to install after first flight," says Boeing.

The aircraft, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will be used to test the cabin environment of the 787 and is fitted with a partial interior along with side walls, lighting, seating, galley equipment, crew rest areas and overhead bins.

Beyond the cabin testing, the aircraft will also participate in extended twin engine operations testing, systems functionality and reliability tests, as well as electromagnetic effects (EME) and high intensity radio frequency (HIRF) testing related to lightning strike protection.

The aircraft will also validate design changes to the environmental control systems, say programme sources.

Boeing sees the slide of the aircraft's first flight - designated ZA003 - as an overall benefit to the programme and calls the move a "typical adjustment" and a "smart move overall", despite the aggressive 3,100hr flight test schedule that the company is undertaking for the 787.

The airframer says it is "taking some extra time to get in the air but we will be able to fly more often sooner in its flight test schedule, which will be an overall benefit to the program".

ZA003 will be the fourth 787 to fly after ZA004 made its maiden flight on 24 February.

ZA005 and ZA006, both powered by General Electric GEnx-1B engines are expected to make first flight before the end of April.

First delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways is expected in the fourth quarter.

Boeing holds 876 orders from 57 customers for the 787.