Boeing Halts 787 Flight Tests Over Power-Loss Incident

Nov. 11, 2010
Fire aboard Dreamline puts program under investigation, delay

A Boeing 787 lost electrical power as a result of an onboard fire during a test flight Monday. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

The commercial and military aircraft builder summarized the details of widely reported incident, which has led Boeing to postpone further flight test activities on other airplanes. It said ground testing will be conducted until flight testing resumes.

“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,” according to Boeing.

Notably, Boeing said it cannot determine how the event and its investigation will affect its 787 production schedule. Its research teams continue to study the incident, and no analysis has not been completed that will inform the company’s next decision on the program.

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.

However, the Dreamliner program is more than a three years behind its original schedule. 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.

In the Monday incident, Boeing said, the airplane’s backup systems functioned as expected, including the deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), so the crew was able to complete a safe landing.

Boeing said the flight team was conducting monitoring of the Nitrogen Generation System when the fire happened, but it finds no reason to suspect that the monitoring or earlier testing of that system had anything to do with the incident.

It said initial inspection seems to indicate that a power control panel in an electronics bay at the rear of the jet will need to be replaced, and the power panel and surrounding area near that panel are being inspected to determine if other repairs will be necessary.

Boeing said it retrieved flight data from the airplane and will analyze it over several days, but it emphasized it will not rush its investigators’ efforts.

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