Boeing has completed the first of three rounds of gauntlet testing on the 747-8 Freighter (RC501), marking a significant step towards the aircraft's first flight.

RC501's two-day factory gauntlet took place on 4-5 November and consisted of ground control and autopilot checks, as well as testing of the flight deck and power systems.

Gauntlet testing places the aircraft in a closed loop simulation that "fools" the aircraft systems into thinking they are flying. The factory gauntlet also represents the first major test of all of the aircraft systems as they operate in unison.

The first 747-8F also flew a simulated reduced first flight profile with dynamics, flight controls and autoflight checks. The 9h "first flight" test was flown by Mark Feuerstein, chief project pilot for the 747-8F programme and Capt Sheila Beahm, says Boeing.

RC501 will continue functional testing before rolling out of the factory then heading to the paintshop and fuel dock for first auxiliary power unit start, followed by a move to the flight line for the intermediate gauntlet.

The second phase of gauntlet testing will see the first start of the four General Electric GEnx-2B engines under the wings of the new freighter.

After the intermediate gauntlet is complete, the aircraft will move into the final gauntlet systems testing, followed by low and high-speed taxi testing before first flight. RC501 is expected to take its maiden flight early next year, with first delivery to Cargolux in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Source: Flight International