Aviation News

December 23, 2010

Boeing 787 Flight Testing Resumes Following Electrical Fire and Month-Long Hiatus

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By: BNO News
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Boeing on Thursday announced it will resume flight test activities on the 787 Dreamliner immediately after the aircraft had been grounded for more than a month due to an incident.

Flight track of Boeing Flight 4, the first 787 test flight in nearly 3 weeks. (Image courtesy of FlightAware.com)

On November 9, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner test flight was evacuated after landing in Laredo, Texas due to smoke detected in the cockpit. No injuries were reported, but the incident raised questions about the safety of the aircraft.

Soon later, Boeing said the aircraft lost primary electrical power as a result of an oboard electrical fire. Backup systems, including the deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), functioned and allowed the crew to perform a safe landing.

“The pilots executed a safe landing and at all times had positive control of the airplane and all of the information necessary to perform that safe landing,” Boeing said in a statement in November. “Initial inspection appears to indicate that a power control panel in the aft electronics bay will need to be replaced on [the aircraft]. We are inspecting the power panel and surrounding area near that panel to determine if other repairs will be necessary.”

A day later, Boeing added that the failure in the panel led to a fire involving an insulation blanket. “The insulation self-extinguished once the fault in the P100 panel cleared,” Boeing said.

On Thursday, Boeing said the company has installed an interim version of updated power distribution system software and conducted a rigorous set of reviews to confirm the flight readiness of ZA004, the first of the six flight test airplanes that will return to flight.

“Initially, we will resume a series of Boeing tests that remain to be completed in the flight test program. That testing will be followed later by a resumption of certification testing,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.

A test on Thursday, the first, will include an intentional deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), which is a small turbine that is deployed when back-up power is required.

Boeing and Hamilton Sundstrand completed testing of the interim software updates earlier this week. Verification of the system included laboratory testing of standalone components, integration testing with other systems, flight simulator testing and ground-based testing on a flight test airplane.

In the last several weeks, the company continued ground testing as part of the certification program. Additional ground testing will be done by the company on the production version of the airplane to further verify performance of the changes being made.

“As we return to flight test and determine the pace of that activity, we remain focused on developing a new program schedule,” Fancher added. “We expect to complete our assessment of the program schedule in January.”