Two Boeing 787s are experiencing life in northern climes, with ZA002 set for a return to the North Pole and ZA003 heading home to Seattle after its brief, but extremely cold, sojourn to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Both tests are repeats of earlier work performed using the same aircraft in 2010, although this time they are for FAA-EASA type certification, rather than Boeing experimental flight testing. ZA002 made its first navigation test flight to the pole in August, and is expected to conduct a repeat performance for FAA officials over the next few days.
Polar bound - ZA002 (Boeing)
Interestingly it seems ZA002 was originally scheduled to head for the pole today, but will now venture north in the next few days instead. Boeing does not comment on flight test activity, but I understand the shift in schedule has nothing to do with the sudden flare up in solar activity this week, and the expected impact will have on satellite navigation systems that the large coronal mass ejection now hitting the Earth.
As before, the flight will be a key demonstration of the Honeywell-developed navigation package, as magnetic heading in the polar region is unreliable or completely useless for navigation. The 787 will be penetrating deep into the Canadian area of magnetic unreliability in which magnetic variations are extreme, frequently not constant at the same point, and change rapidly as an aircraft changes position. The reliance on GPS and inertial reference systems grows more important the further north towards the pole the aircraft gets. This is because the point of convergence of magnetic field lines in the northern hemisphere wanders over time and is not at the geographic pole. It presently lies in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Canada and is about 11.6° south of the geographic north pole, and about 104.3° west longitude.
Even though this blog is supposed to be about All Things With Wings, I can't resist posting up this video of the sun's biggest flare since Dec 2006, and (below), a NASA image of the event which sent a coronal mass ejection heading our way at 900 km/sec.
The sun emitted its first X-class flare in more than four years on February 14. X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. (NASA/SDO)
And now,back to Things With Wings.....
Although ZA003, the interiors test aircraft, had not been to Alaska before, it had been put through extremes of low (and high) temperatures during a two-week test phase of weather tests at McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, last April.
ZA003 shivering in Florida last April. (Boeing)
ZA001 is meanwhile engaged in stability and control certification test work, while one of the GE-powered 787s, ZA005, is being used to check the GEnx-1B reverse thrust system as well as run carefully monitored straight and level runs for measurements of precise drag characteristics.