777-300ERs will demonstrate diversions to remote airfields as final phase of certification

Boeing will begin a worldwide extended range twin-engine operations (ETOPS) flight-test programme later this month using both the development 777-300ER aircraft, as it begins the final phase of the certification effort.

The month of ETOPS testing will involve the two aircraft operating around 40 flights between them around the world, carrying US Federal Aviation Administration and customer airline pilots, as well as Boeing crews. These will comprise transatlantic and transpacific flights to points in Australia, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Gulf, New Zealand, Mauritius and South America (Flight International, 28 January-3 February). Boeing will also use the programme as a sales tour, and is equipping one of the aircraft with a partial interior.

Tests will involve demonstrations of ETOPS diversion flights to remote airports, with current plans calling for stops in Cold Bay, Alaska; Iqaluit, Canada; Longyearbyn, Norway; Reykjavik, Iceland; Easter Island and Noumea in the Pacific, as well as several Siberian fields including Novosibirsk and Yakutsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Russian far east.

Eight flights will be operated for 330min on a single engine, after which the second engine will be restarted but idled at top-of-descent and the aircraft will land at a remote diversion airfield.

As part of the tests, it is planned that the first 777-300ER test aircraft will operate a 19.5h ultra long-range flight between Sydney and Rio de Janeiro - a great-circle distance of 13,500km (7,300nm) - on a transpolar routing over Antarctica. "Unlike the original 777 ETOPS programme in 1995, which was flight-cycle and failure orientated, this time we're more focused on the operational aspects," says Boeing 777 senior test pilot Suzanna Darcy. "We will operate flights from hot to cold climates, and from dry conditions to humid."

The aircraft have accrued around 800h of the planned 1,500h of flight testing, since the programme began in February. Noise tests were completed in Montana last month and data analysis is under way. Demonstration flying for certification is well advanced, and icing trials are due to take place later this month. FAA approval is on schedule for late December/early January, with deliveries to launch operator Air France (through a lease deal with International Lease Finance) beginning in April.

Source: Flight International