Boeing’s first 787, ZA001, is in the air as I post this – enroute to Edwards AFB in California for the start of exhaustive runway tests. The work marks a critical element of the program’s take off and landing validation and certification testing and, according to 787 chief test pilot Mike Carriker, is “where the fun really begins.”
When I talked to Carriker in June about the testing at Edwards as part of Phase 2 of stability and control he told me “…we’re going to try and squeeze every inch and ounce out of it.” The tests will make the use of the base’s long runways to wring out the aircraft’s low-speed performance with tests such as the Vmu (velocity minimum unstuck) check, which measures the lowest speed at which the aircraft can lift off.
787 tests will follow in the well-trodden footsteps of earlier Boeing runway work at EAFB, including the 777 (Boeing)
ZA001 is due to touch down at Edwards around 10.10 am local time – or in just over 30 mins from now. The short flight, last nearly two hours, will bring the entire flight test time close to the 1,500 hour mark. The pace of tests has ebbed in recent days with the only activity being undertaken by ZA001. Both ZA002 and ZA003 have been in lay-up, while ZA005, the first General Electric-powered 787, has also been down since Aug 12. ZA004, the Victorville-based flight loads survey aircraft, is meanwhile due to resume these tests around Aug 18.
Meanwhile the FAA has provisionally given Boeing the all-clear to commence airline pilot training for the 787 following its approval of the Boeing Training and Flight Services 787 flight training course. The milestone marks the final phase of a three part build-up process to clear the fast-track training program which enables pilots to transition to the 787 in five to 20 days, depending on experience. Boeing 777 pilots can qualify to fly the 787 in as few as five days, due to the high level of commonality between the two types. Approval of the course represents a key achievement for BT&S which worked with the program from the start to ensure 777-like handling characteristics.