I’m stuck in Cincinnati airport in the middle of weather-caused air transport chaos – so what better time to provide a quick update on Boeing’s fast-changing 787 and 747-8 flight test programs?
Let’s start with the 747-8 which, according to sources, will see the second aircraft join the flight test program as soon as tomorrow (Sunday Mar 14) afternoon – a day earlier than planned. The aircraft, RC522, is set for a mid-afternoon departure from Paine Field and will land at Boeing Field, rather than returning to Everett.
Flight clearance for the remaining two 747-8s follows the completion of initial airworthiness tests by RC501 based out of Moses Lake, Wash. The aircraft is busy completing stability and control work, and this weekend is expected to conduct trim and take-off characteristics.
RC521 - the second 747-8, and the third to join the test program - is currently undergoing final ground tests. It was originally expected to make its first flight on Mar 17, but it is not known if the last-minute rescheduling of the first flight of RC522 from Monday to tomorrow may cause a similar knock-on (or should I say knock-forward) effect.
Meanwhile the hectic pace of the 787 program continues at a gallop with flights closing on 100 and flight test hours within sight of the 300 mark. ZA001, with some 54 flights logged to-date, is set for further flight flutter work out of Boeing Field, while ZA002 today began flying locally in the Victorville-Palmdale area of southern California. Although aimed primarily at ground effects tests, the initial work for ZA002 is focused on gathering flight data to compare against the handling characteristics programmed into the Boeing training simulator. Other tests include assessing the effects of tailwinds on take-off distance.
ZA002 is using the long runway at Victorville for tailwind take-off tests. (Boeing)
ZA003 is meanwhile closing in on first flight, with the aircraft currently expected to take to the air before midday tomorrow (Mar 14), making it a potentially record-breaking day for first flights of initial test aircraft for two new models. First flight follows the successful completion of the system gauntlet tests late last week.
Ground test work on ZA004 at Boeing Field continues on regression tests of an updated flight control software load. Introduced post-first flight, the update is referred to as a ‘wedge’ and, in this case, is wedge 5.5. The software will be tested tomorrow in two main blocks – with the first block focusing on the flight control software itself, and the second (to be tested later in the afternoon) focused on the engine indicating and crew altering system. For additional detail check out Flightblogger’s recent entry on ZA004.