The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash., USA) announced on April 22 that the 787 Dreamliner has begun a series of extreme-weather tests at Valparaiso, Fla. A special hangar at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base allows the airplane to experience heat as high as 115°F/46°C and as low as -45°F/-43°C.
After the airplane is stabilized at either the hot or cold temperatures, flight test technicians will follow the Airplane Maintenance Manual to perform the steps required to prepare the airplane for flight release and operate under these conditions. Sensors and monitors will allow the test team to determine if all systems hardware and software operate as expected.
Cold-weather testing is being conducted first, with preliminary hot-weather testing to follow. Additional extreme-weather testing will be conducted later in the flight test program.
"We have Dreamliner customers who will operate the 787 in a wide variety of environments throughout the world," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "This testing is about ensuring that the airplane meets the expectations of our customers.
A crew of approximately 100 people traveled from Seattle to support the test operations on ZA003, the third 787 airplane to be built. The McKinley Climatic Laboratory is the second remote testing location for the 787 Dreamliner. The second airplane in the fleet, ZA002, performed a variety of tests in Victorville, Calif., last month. The testing in Florida is expected to last nearly two weeks.
In other Dreamliner news, The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Boeing expanded type inspection authorization (TIA) today, clearing the way for its personnel to fully participate in future test flights and for the collection of required flight-test data. Initial TIA was granted Feb. 11, which supported the collection of flutter certification data. The expanded TIA marks the FAA's confirmation that the airplane and team are ready to collect additional certification data. Boeing achieved the expansion by demonstrating the readiness of the airplane throughout a variety of speeds, altitudes and configurations.
In addition to receiving expanded TIA, Boeing finalized the aerodynamic configuration of the 787. "We have completed sufficient testing to decide that no additional changes to the external lines or shape of the airplane are required," said Fancher. "Having an airplane match its expected performance with so few changes is rare and speaks to the maturity of the design."
The 787 flight-test fleet logged its 500th hour of flying April 16. On Sunday, ZA003, the flight-test airplane outfitted with interior elements, landed in Florida, where it will go through extreme weather testing at McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base.
Boeing released two videos highlighting flutter and ground effects testing. These videos feature commentary by the pilots and the chief project engineer and are available at www.newairplane.com.