The final Boeing 787 Dreamliner to join the flight-test fleet has made its first flight from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The aircraft, designated ZA006 by Boeing, is the second 787 equipped with General Electric GEnx-1B engines to fly.
Captains Christine Walsh and Bill Roberson were at the controls during the 1 hour and 4 minute flight. The airplane landed at Boeing Field at 12:45 p.m. Pacific time.
“It’s great to have our last flight test airplane join the fleet,” says Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the Boeing 787 program. “We have been focused on completing the testing required for certification of the 787 with Rolls-Royce engines, because that is the first model we deliver. A great deal of the testing that we’ve done also applies to the 787s with GE engines and won’t need to be repeated.”
However, a smaller portion of testing is unique to the engine/airframe combination. This portion includes noise testing, extreme-weather operations, function and reliability, and extended operations. In addition, testing is required to verify that the aircraft handles the same regardless of engine type and that all systems work on 787s equipped with either engine model.
Boeing says some additional flight tests will be performed on one of the production aircraft, the ninth 787 to be built, but it is not considered a full-time member of the flight test fleet.
In addition to achieving the first flight of ZA006, Boeing says the 787 test team has completed a number of flight-test milestones in recent weeks.
Boeing wrapped up a series of natural and artificial icing tests, meeting all requirements with no changes required. Pilots reported that the 787 continues to handle well even in the presence of ice, according to the manufacturer.
Flight loads survey testing, which demonstrates the pressure distribution on the aircraft’s structure throughout the phases of flight in a variety of configurations, also has been completed. The team conducted this testing on ZA004, primarily at the airport at Victorville, California. Analysis of this testing continues.
A dramatic series of tests that stress the airplane’s brakes, called maximum-brake-energy testing, was completed in late September at Edwards Air Force Base, also in California. ZA001 conducted this testing as well as a series of extreme take-off and landing conditions including minimum take-off speed testing. Earlier in the month, ZA001 completed wet-runway testing at Roswell, New Mexico.
ZA003 flew to Glasgow, Montana to complete community-noise testing. All results were within expectations, Boeing says.
As a result of these tests and others, all take-off performance and handling characteristics testing is complete for the initial version of the 787. Additional testing will be required for 787s equipped with GE engines.
The 787 flight-test program has logged more than 1,900 hours over 620 flights and completed more than 65 per cent of the flight-test conditions for 787s with Rolls-Royce engines.
Equally important to the testing required in the air is the ground testing required to certify a new aircraft. Boeing has completed well over 4,000 hours of ground testing on the same aircraft that are in the flight test program.
In addition, fatigue testing has started at a test rig in Everett. To date 15 flights have been simulated. Federal regulations require Boeing to conduct twice as many flight cycles as any aircraft in revenue service. Boeing plans to have completed 10,000 flight cycles prior to first delivery of the 787.
“We continue to be extremely satisfied with the performance of the 787 in its testing operations,” says Fancher. “This airplane handles wonderfully and will be a valuable tool for our customers.”