Boeing’s test fleet has been an incredibly busy since December 2009 with the first flights of both the 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 updated Jumbo Jet. AIR International and Airliner World magazines have been covering the action.
Ready… steady… now, said Chief Pilot Mike Carriker to co-pilot Capt Randy Neville, as he released the brakes for take-off. Powering down runway 34L at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, Carriker eased Boeing 787 Dreamliner N787BA/ZA001 into the air for the first time at 10:27 on December 15, 2009.
Once airborne, he climbed to 2,500ft (762m) to avoid entering the clouds and immediately undertook the first test points of the flight. The pilot then received clearance from air traffic control, and called the engineers on the ground monitoring the telemetry, advising them that he had control of the aircraft and was ready to start the first flight test.
We popped out of the top of the clouds at about 7,000ft (2,133m) and there was the snow-capped Olympics, the Straits of San Juan, all framed in the front left window of a 787 at 10,000ft (3,048m). That image will be in my mind for the rest of my life, said Carriker. We took off with a very aggressive plan, to fly for five and a half hours and do many test points that actually count for the final certification of the airplane. We achieved about half of those.
Describing the early part of the flight, co-pilot Capt Randy Neville said We took off with flaps 20 [degrees], the normal take-off setting and we stayed there for quite a while. We were at flaps 20 for the bulk of the mission that was with the gear down. We ultimately got to flaps 30; we cycled the landing gear, which was a big test point. We brought the gear up and both breathed a big sigh of relief when we put it back down and it came down properly.
Because airspace with clear weather was limited and this made it necessary to make numerous turns, Carriker couldn’t achieve the speed he would have liked to. Much of the flight was flown at around 160kts (184mph/296km/h), according to Neville, but the crew achieved a maximum air speed of 180kts (207mph/333km/h) and an altitude of 13,200ft (4,023m). During the course of the flight Carriker and Neville tested systems and structures, as onboard equipment recorded and transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team at Boeing Field. Due to deteriorating weather in the Seattle area, the flight was cut short and the crew flew an ILS approach to runway 13R in very wet conditions landing safely at Seattle’s Boeing Field at 13:33.
Seven days later, Boeing 787 N787EX/ ZA002, the second aircraft completed its first flight, in the livery of the launch customer, ANA (All Nippon Airways) of Japan. Flown by Capt Randy Neville, with Chief Pilot Mike Carriker operating as co-pilot, the crew completed a two-hour flight and also landed at Boeing Field. Boeing says there will be more than 3,000 flight test hours flown before the 787 is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The flight test programme will involve six aircraft flying nearly around the clock and around the globe. Each of them will be used for a specific set of tests.
A third aircraft joined the flight-test programme on February 24 as ZA004, the fourth flight-test airframe to be built, took off at 11:43 local time from Paine Field. ZA004 flew before ZA003 because the data it is collecting is needed more quickly, both for certification and development of the 787-9. Captains Heather Ross and Craig Bomben completed a three-hour-and-two-minute flight landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. Airplane No. 4 operated flawlessly today, Ross said after landing. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but I can’t imagine a better start to the flight test programme for this airplane. ZA004 will be used to test aerodynamics, high-speed performance, propulsion performance, flight loads, community noise and extended operations (ETOPS). ZA003 flew on March 14 with Captains Ray Craig and Mike Bryan at the controls.
On May 12 two pilots from Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the first non-Boeing company crew to fly the 787 Dreamliner during a test flight. ANA pilots Captain Masayuki Ishii, Director of 787 pre-operations planning, and Captain Masami Tsukamoto, Manager of 787 pre-operations pilots joined Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Captain Carriker and co-pilot Captain Christine Walsh for the three-hour flight.
Boeing 747-8 makes maiden flight
The first prototype Boeing 747-8 Freighter took to the air for the first time on February 8, 2010 in front of 5,000 employees at the company’s Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The General Electric GEnx-2B-powered aircraft, N747EX (c/n 35808), departed at 12:39 local time (20:27 GMT) landing back at the same airport almost four hours later at 16:18 (00:33 GMT). During the flight the aircraft underwent tests for basic handling qualities and engine performance and reached a cruising altitude of 17,000ft (5,181m) and a speed of up to 230 knots, or about 264mph (426km/h).
At the controls for the three and a half hour flight was Boeing Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein, accompanied by Captain Tom Imrich. Delayed by two hours due to bad weather in the morning, the new ‘Jumbo’ took to the air at 12:39 local time. “It was a real privilege to be at the controls of this great airplane on its first flight, representing the thousands of folks who made today possible,” said Feuerstein. “The airplane performed as expected and handled just like a 747-400.”
The flight marked the beginning of a planned 1,600 flight-hour test programme with type certification scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year when the first aircraft will be repainted in the colours of launch customer Cargolux for delivery.
It was in November 2005 that Boeing announced the launch of the B747-8. A modest stretch of the ‘400, it includes many of the innovative technologies being incorporated into the 787 Dreamliner – in fact, the designation B747-8 was a deliberate choice in order to highlight the technology connection with the 787.
The aircraft is 8ft 4in (5.6m) longer than the B747-400 and the passenger version, dubbed the Intercontinental, is being marketed as a 400- to 500-seat airliner positioned between the B777 and the A380. It has space for 51 more seats than the -400, offering accommodation for 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration.
Boeing claims the latest variant will offer seat-mile costs approximately 11% lower than the -400, a trip-cost reduction of 19%, and a seat-mile cost reduction of more than 4% compared to the A380. It will have a range of around 8,000 nautical miles (14,815km), meaning that it could offer non-stop connections on many of the world’s major routes. With a maximum structural payload capacity of 140 tonnes (154 tons), the B747-8 Freighter has 16% more cargo volume than its predecessor. The additional 4,245cu ft (120m3) of volume allows it to accommodate four more main-deck pallets, as well as three further lower-hold ones.
Boeing has secured 108 firm orders for the B747-8, mostly for the freighter version. In fact, it has only two airline customers for the Intercontinental, with Lufthansa ordering 20 examples in December 2006 and Korean Air purchasing five in December 2009 – a further seven orders listed in Boeing’s order book are for VIP variants.
Eight customers have selected the freighter: Atlas Air (12), Cargolux Airlines (13), Cathay Pacific Airways (10), Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (15), Guggenheim Aviation Partners (2), Korean Air (5), Nippon Cargo Airlines (14) and Volga-Dnepr Airlines (5).
On March 15, 2010 Boeing’s test fleet had possibly never been busier with the first flight of the second 747-8F close on the heels of the fourth 787. Coded RC 522, the second 747-8F took off from Boeing’s Paine Field for a two and a half hour flight, landing at Boeing Field in Seattle after reaching an altitude of 27,000ft (8,230m) and an airspeed of 240 knots. Just three days later Boeing’s third and final development aircraft, RC 521, joined the programme. RC 521 will concentrate on fuel-mileage testing in the early phases – the 747-8 Freighter flight-test programme calls for all three aircraft to perform approximately 3,700 hours of testing, both on the ground and in the air.
On April 19 RC 521 moved to Palmdale in California; “Palmdale provides an excellent test environment,” said Andy Hammer, 747 Test Programme Manager. “It allows us to take full advantage of one of the world’s premier experimental test flight facilities and the excellent weather conditions to meet our flight-test requirements on the road to obtaining our amended type certification.” The three test aircraft will be based at Palmdale for the majority of the scheduled flight-test programme.
Boeing began assembly of the first 747-8 Intercontinental passenger airliner at its factory in Everett on May 10. Lufthansa was the first airline to order the passenger version of the 747-8 signing for 20 and securing purchase rights for an additional 20.
“We are very pleased to see that the production on the 747-8 Intercontinental has begun,” said Nico Buchholz, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fleet of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Boeing’s 787 made its Farnborough debut this year, and maybe the Intercontinental will be the company’s star of the 2012 airshow.