Boeing has begun low-speed wind tunnel tests for the Boeing 777X and calls the testing a major milestone in aircraft development.
Testing started on December 5 at QinetiQ’s test facility at Farnborough in the UK. Wind-tunnel models allow aircraft designers to test many different configurations for an aircraft.
The low-speed model currently being tested is a 5.5 per cent scale model of the baseline Boeing 777X, measuring about 4.22 meters (166 inches) long with a wing span of 3.92 meters (154 inches).
Low-speed tests measure aircraft performance at a variety of high-lift surface settings, to simulate take-off and landing conditions.
“This is the first major development milestone for the program since we launched the program last month,” says Terry Beezhold, vice president and chief project engineer of the Boeing 777X program. “Wind tunnel testing will validate our performance models and generate a vast amount of data that our engineering teams will use to design the airplane in this phase of development.”
Hundreds of sensors are embedded in the model to measure pressure to determine the in-flight loads and to provide diagnostics of the aerodynamic performance of a given design.
Low-speed testing at the QinetiQ facility is expected to last approximately five months. Testing also will be conducted next year at the Boeing Transonic Wind Tunnel in Seattle to provide further validation of 777X high-speed performance projections.
“We are on track to complete our top-level design in 2014 and reach firm configuration in 2015,” says Beezhold.
The 777X family includes the 777-8X and the 777-9X models.
According to Boeing, the aircraft introduces the latest technologies in multiple places, including the most advanced commercial engine ever – the GE9X by GE Aviation – and a new, high-efficiency composite wing which will have a longer span than today’s Boeing 777-300ER and will feature fold-up wingtip sections, in order to fit into standard widebody gate areas.
Boeing and QinetiQ recently concluded an agreement that will extend the wind tunnel partnership at Farnborough for an additional five years.
The 777X program was launched last month with orders and commitments for 259 aircraft from Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways.