A deadline for the first Boeing 787 delivery, set when the type made its much-delayed first flight at the close of 2009, looks set to pass with no precise schedule for the handover - and the six-strong test fleet still grounded due to an in-flight electrical fire on 9 November.

With the original May 2008 handover date long since abandoned for a series of engineering troubles, 2010 opened with hope that Japanese carrier ANA would finally receive its first 787 in December. However, in August engine availability and structural issues saw the target shifted to the middle of the first quarter of 2011, and no firm date has yet been set.

Boeing has determined that the "most likely" cause of the fire - in the aft electrical equipment bay of Boeing's second 787 test aircraft, ZA002, during an approach to Laredo, Texas - was foreign debris ingestion, which triggered either a short circuit or an electrical arc in the P100 power distribution panel that manages power generated by the aircraft's left engine.

Maintenance technicians have replaced ZA002's damaged P100 panel, repaired damage to the interior composite structure, and installed new insulation material. Design, validation and implementation of electrical system software and hardware changes is now under way as Boeing seeks to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration that the 787 test fleet can return to flight operations. Confirmation of the impact on the delivery schedule awaits completion of this work.

With close to 2,400h under its belt, the 787 has undertaken 765 flights, spanning the US, UK, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, France, the Netherlands and the North Pole, encountering high winds and extreme temperatures in the course of the campaign.

Source: Flight International