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787 Flight Test Update - Month Four and Five

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Videos Courtesy Liz Matzelle

787 Flight Test Updates: Month One, Month Two & Month Three

It has been five months since ZA001 made its maiden flight on December 15, 2009 has surpassed 747 flight hours with its four Rolls-Royce powered 787s through May 18.

With five months of testing now under its belt, only Boeing knows if it is truly on track for first delivery and certification by the end of 2010, though with about 750 of the 2400 planned flight test hours (for Rolls-Royce certification) accumulated through a five months worth of testing, the goal looks tighter and tighter. While Boeing has not swayed from its projection of a year-end first delivery, ANA - launch customer for the 787 - is quietly making preparations for a further delay into 2011, with other industry sources saying the airline's preparations angle closer to a springtime entry into service for the new composite jetliner.

787FlightTestSlide.jpgOn May 10, tracking by UBS Investment Research estimated that the 787 was only 20% through type certification and was as much as a month behind to a mid-September completion "due to extended downtime for both planned and unplanned maintenance on its four test aircraft."

The most significant program milestone in the last two months was the granting of the expanded Type Inspection Authorization on April 21 which cleared the way for the certification operations with the Federal Aviation Administration. Earlier in the month, on April 7, Boeing declared the static structural tests successful following the high-blow and wing flex tests of late March. Additionally, on April 8, the 787's Hamilton Sundstrand APS5000 APU completed ETOPS testing after logging 10,000 operating hours.

Dreamliner One's fourth and fifth month were spent wrapping up flutter testing on March 19, followed by airspeed calibration testing and about 16 days of high speed stability and control testing that ended on April 9. The aircraft has logged just shy of 352hr over 124 flights, up from 220hr on March 19 and 68 flights.

During the S&C testing, one notable addition to ZA001's exterior was the installation of what appear to be vortex generators on the vertical stabilizer. The same are visible on ZA002 as well. While an exact date of the installation isn't known, it appears that they were added to the tail fin sometime between March 26 and April 3.

ZA001 underwent brake testing before moving into planned layup starting on April 14 and remained on the ground in preparation for TIA and V5.5 software installation until May 4. Upon its return to flight, ZA001 marked its 100th flight since December 15. On May 8, ZA001 had an inflight rendezvous with the Boeing 40C as photographed from a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. The first 787 made two passes at 10,000 feet around its ancestor before continuing on with its testing for the day. On May 12, the 787 was flown by ANA pilots Capt. Masami Tsukamoto and Masayuki Ishii, marking the first time non-Boeing pilots had flown the aircraft.

In late-March, ZA002 wrapped up ground effects testing in Victorville, then ferried back to Back on March 23. Dreamliner Two has logged 207hr over 71 flights, up from 130hr in mid-March.

Following its California swing, Dreamliner Two went into layup until mid-April. Hardware and software updates were installed during the downtime and the aircraft returned to flying on April 12 for regression testing, followed by stall testing and spoiler droop tests to determine the best position against the flaps on approach. 

The aircraft returned again to layup on April 16 for a second sizable block until May 5, at which point the aircraft moved toward seeking out natural icing conditions in flight. On May 18, ZA002 made a quick hop down to Colorado Springs airport for autopilot and autoland testing before returning to Boeing Field in the evening.

Since its March 14 first flight, ZA003 has not accumulated a significant number of flight hours. The aircraft flew 18 flights during the past two months, raising the total hours to 44, though the aircraft has been put through a heavy regime of ground tests. The Rolls-Royce powered test fleet requires 3,100hr of ground testing in addition to the 2,430 hours of flight testing for certification. Dreamliner Three will have the fewest hours of the six test aircraft.

Ground testing ZA003 has focused on the environmental control and air flow systems on the 787. The flow testing has centered on the flight deck, crew rest areas, main cabin, lavatories, galleys and cargo hold as well as cooling of the aircraft's electronics bays.

ZA003 spent 10 days at Eglin Air Force Base from April 18 through April 28 for hot and cold soak ground testing (detailed here) inside the McKinley Climatic Chamber, before transitioning to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for wheel well thermal flight and ground testing. ZA003 returned to Boeing Field on May 3.

Following its February 24 maiden sortie, ZA004 went into a post-flight layup for additional installation of instrumentation and served as first test bed for the Wedge V5.5 software ground testing on March 10. Further regressions ground tests on the new software load continued through March 18, when ZA004 first flew with the new software load.

By March 21, software testing combined with engine deterioration to set a baseline for a lost of engine efficiency overtime. Further engine tests were run through April 9, before entering an extended period of layup that ended with a return to ground testing to check out flight control cruise trim on April 21. That same day, the 787 program was granted its expanded Type Inspection Authorization, kicking off the official flight test for certification campaign. 

The first official certification flight tests were run on April 25, the day after ZA004 transitioned from Boeing Field to Victorville. The tests included evaluation and certification of the laminar flow of the aircraft surfaces, followed by steady state performance tests.

Most recently, ZA004 has been undergoing NAMS testing to establish the fuel performance of the 787's twin Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. The tests are being run at various weights to establish the long range performance of the twin jet. Flights as long as 11hr have been run off the coasts of Southern California and and Mexico. This will be the first block of NAMS testing, which will be later repeated with 'Package B' Trent 1000 engines with further improved fuel efficiency.

Since it returned to flying on March 18, ZA004 has accumulated 143hr of flight time over 28 flights through March 18, that figure is up 55% in just the last week with the extended duration NAMS flight test from Victorville.

Dreamliner Five, fitted with General Electric GEnx engines, was moved to the Everett flightline on March 25, then to the fuel dock around May 5, followed by first engine start (video) on May 13.  Preparations continue toward first flight next month, which is estimated to take place around June 9, however sources caution that the date could change.

Photos Credit 1. Daniel Jones 2-3. Mitchell Scott 4. David Lilienthal 5. Jeremy Lindgren

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