Boeing Resumes Dreamliner Test Flights

New program schedule for 787 construction due in January

Boeing Co. resumed test flights for one of its 787 commercial jet test crafts late last week, having suspended the test flights in November following an in-flight electrical fire that investigators concluded involved the power-distribution system on the new airliner. The aircraft builder reports it has installed a new system software for the test flight jet, and conducted “a rigorous set of reviews” to ensure the plane’s readiness.

"Initially, we will resume a series of Boeing tests that remain to be completed in the flight test program,” Scott Fancher reported. “That testing will be followed later by a resumption of certification testing.”

Fancher is the vice president and general manager of the 787 program. He said the resumed testing will include testing of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), a small turbine that is deployed when back-up power is required.

The 787 “Dreamliner” is a wide-body twin-engine aircraft with long range and carrying capacity for 210 to 330 passengers. Boeing has said it will be its most fuel-efficient commercial jet.

The Dreamliner program is more than a three years behind its original schedule following six separate delays in the expected delivery date. Boeing reportedly has 850 orders from airliners for the jets, and earlier this year the first deliveries were delayed again, to the first quarter of 2011. Among the reasons for delays have been design issues, parts shortages, and labor problems.

Recently, Boeing asked some 787 program suppliers to delay deliveries of parts and systems, due to construction slowdowns resulting from the suspended flight tests.

Before resuming the test flights, Boeing and Hamilton Sundstrand verified the interim control software, including laboratory tests of standalone components, integration testing with other systems, flight simulator testing, and ground-based testing on a flight test airplane.

Boeing will do additional ground testing on the production version of the 787 to verify further the performance of the changes.

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

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