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Pre-flight and Layup: A 747 and 787 Round Up

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Good morning from London Heathrow! I'm here on the ground during my layover and I thought I'd take this quiet moment to provide a brief update and good round up of all that is going on for Boeing's two primary development programs.

Let's start with 747-8F
While Boeing says it's not officially a re-run of the final gauntlet testing of January 21-23rd, program sources say RC501 (N747EX) is running a second gauntlet which contains a subset of the steps run during the first. Phase two of the gauntlet is mostly "engineering retest and validation" to address some issues discovered during the first gauntlet. Mark Feuerstein and Tom Imrich took RC501 through a simulated take off and landing, as well as maneuvers between 10,000 and 12,000 feet. (Special thanks to Matt Cawby for the audio)

Ground operations consisted of control sweeps of the flight control system. Perhaps the biggest advance on the -8 is the lateral flight controls (ailerons and spoilers), which are now driven by a fly-by-wire system, the first time such a flight control system has been flown on a 747. While "in flight", Imrich cycled the flaps and landing gear and then "returned" to PAE via the JAWBN intersection with flaps to 25 and a Vref speed of 155 kts to land on runway 16R.

On the flight line, RC522 has joined RC501 and RC521. This move, completed Wednesday night, signifies that the entire flight test fleet for 747-8F certification is now factory complete. RC522 which will eventually be delivered to Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) is currently unpainted.

And on to 787
ZA002 (N787EX) is back in flying condition once again as it rejoined the flight test fleet on Wednesday for a four hour flight that took the 787 out of Washington state for the first time south down the Pacific Coast to Oregon and Northern California. The flight also marked the first time flight test crews have flown on the aircraft. The aircraft is tentatively scheduled to fly again as early as Sunday, January 31. The aircraft is again stationed at BFI.

ZA001 (N787BA) is still in the planned post-Initial Airworthiness layup at BFI as it prepares for the next phase of flight test heading toward the Type Inspection Authorization with the FAA. The aircraft is expected back in the sky around Groundhog Day.

ZA004 (N7874) was spotted conducting gear swings last week while ZA003 (N787BX) continues its preparations for first flight currently set for late February. Additionally, the wings for Airplane 17 (ZA150), the first GEnx-powered produciton 787 (for Royal Air Maroc) arrived in Everett from Nagoya on Thursday, January 28.

In other news, 850 Renton-based engineers are transferring to Everett to work on 787 and 747 derivatives, while ANA says it is planning to take delivery eight 787-8s between first delivery in the fourth quarter of this year and March 2011. Presumably, the aircraft would be registered JA801A through JA809A, Airplanes 7-9 and 11-15.

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