Guy Norris/SEATTLE

The first Boeing 757-300 is being prepared for flight testing, provisionally scheduled to begin with a maiden flight on 1 July, following the roll-out ceremony at the company's Renton site on 31 May.

Three 757-300s are due to take part in the test effort, which is planned to last for around 725 flight hours, with type certification due in mid-December. First delivery to launch customer Condor is scheduled for the end of January 1999. The test programme also includes 1,140 ground test hours. One of the first two test aircraft may make an appearance at this year's Farnborough air show in September, says Boeing.

The test programme, like the entire 757-300 development effort, is expected to be the shortest ever conducted by Boeing and is to last around six months. Tests specific to the -300, which is stretched by 7.1m over the -200, to an overall 54.4m, include evaluation of a system to prevent tail scraping on landing and slight changes to the flight envelope.

Alterations have been made to the control logic of the spoiler actuation system, which will prevent three spoiler panels deploying on each wing in the case of an "abused" landing. "If the [flare] nose-up angle gets to 8-9°, then it will 'fire' and de-rotate the nose," says 757-300 chief project test pilot Leon Robert.

The action will increase the nose-down force and "-assist the pilot in doing what he should be doing by then", says Robert, who adds that, "-at that angle, he wouldn't even be able to see the runway over the nose".

Firm orders for the 757-300 were increased to 15 at the roll-out when Condor announced the placing of one more, to take its tally to 13. The only other firm customer, Icelandair, has orders for two -300s and holds options on a further eight aircraft. International Lease Finance has substitution rights for up to six -300s, while Far Eastern Air Transport of Taiwan has similar options on an extra five aircraft.

Despite the slow start of the orderbook, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group president Ron Woodard says: "We're comfortable. This aircraft is out of the ordinary and, as people recognise its outstanding economics, you will see lots of them in Asia and Europe."

Boeing declines to comment on the status of negotiations with American Airlines, which is understood to be interested in ordering a fleet of up to 20 757-300s. Woodard says: "We are discussing this aircraft with several domestic US operators."

Source: Flight International