Fatigue testing under way, but schedule depends on Honeywell completing software

Embraer has passed 1,000h of flight testing the 170 regional airliner following the flight of the sixth and final development aircraft. The company is on course to certificate the 70-seater in June, with initial deliveries to Swiss and Alitalia due by the end of August.

Cold soak testing of development aircraft 05 was recently completed at Fairbanks in Alaska, where it was subjected to temperatures of around –30°C (-22°F). Aircraft 06 flew for the first time in December and is being prepared for flutter trials and cabin interior testing following the completion of static high-intensity radiated field trials and lightning tests.

A critical factor for the programme, however, is software, which Honeywell has been slow to complete. "We keep receiving incremental loads, but we've still not got the final one yet. What we do have is much more complete and debugged," says Luis Carlos Affonso, 170 programme manager. Fatigue testing started in February with the aim of reaching 5,000h by the time aircraft is certificated.

Other work still to be completed includes functionality and reliability testing, which is scheduled to begin in March and will involve flying simulated airline operations over 1.5h legs for up to 11h a day. Testing of the 170's fly-by-wire system is also under way, including validation of the aircraft angle-of-attack protection system designed to limit maximum nose-up pitch.

Aircraft 01 is due to fly to Canada and the USA in March for icing trials, involving checking for the effects of different shapes of ice and flight-handling qualities. The company has begun windtunnel testing of a ventral air brake, which Swiss wants fitted to its fleet of 170s for steep angles of approach into London City Airport. "We're checking for trim changes when deployed and haven't seen any problems with that," says Affonso.

An air brake has already been fitted to aircraft 03, but it will not be fully flight tested or certificated until a year after type approval. Embraer in the meantime plans to deliver aircraft equipped with the system to Swiss. These will be locked until certificated. Other post-certification work will include clearing the aircraft for Category 2 and eventually Category 3 all-weather operations.

Embraer has reduced its regional jet delivery targets for 2003 and 2004 after ExpressJet deferred delivery of 27 ERJ-145XRs, citing uncertain economic conditions. The manufacturer will now deliver 135 aircraft this year, down from 148, and 148 next year, down from 155. The order deferral is the first by a major US regional jet operator. ExpressJet, which operates as Continental Express, has not cancelled any of the 78 ERJ-145XRs remaining on firm order. Instead, the carrier will take 36 aircraft this year instead of 48, and 21 instead of 36 in 2004. Deliveries in 2005 will increase to 21, from two, and the final eight aircraft will now be handed over in 2006.


Source: Flight International