Dreamliner tests hint at nearing of first flight

Series of three gauntlet tests on the 787 test systems power ahead of first flight sometime in second quarter of this year.

The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash.) reportedly has begun "factory gauntlet” tests on the 787 Dreamliner that will evaluate all the aircraft systems during ground-based closed-loop tests to simulate flight-like operations. The gauntlet tests will be conducted as part of the run-up to first flight of the composites-intensive aircraft.

The factory gauntlet test, as its name suggests, is done mostly indoors, with power for tests provided by ground-based generators and batteries. The 787 will then go through the intermediate gauntlet, with power provided by the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. This will be followed by the final gauntlet, which will exercise systems over a prolonged period before the aircraft is officially cleared to begin taxi tests before first flight. First flight is expected by the end of the second quarter.

Also at Boeing, the first production standard aft fuselage and empennage, for the first 787 to be delivered in 2010, arrived at Boeing's Everett facility on April 19. Manufactured of carbon fiber composites, the sections are produced by Vought Aircraft Industries (Dallas, Texas, USA) at its Charleston, S.C., USA, facility.