Imagine this. Two new high profile airplanes in flight test at the same time. 9 or 10 airplanes involved. Yes, that would be a sight to see.
Actually you don’t have to imagine it. We did see something similar when we flight tested both the 757 and 767 at the same time back in 1982. I remember it vividly. I recall how quiet the 757 was in flight, and how we sent the 767 on an international demonstration flight that year.
Well, get ready for simultaneous flight tests once more. If you’ve been following the development of the 747-8 and 787 Dreamliner, you realize that their flight test programs are converging, and we’ll soon have both under way.
The last time major flight test programs overlapped - 757 and 767 - between February and July 1982.
One notable difference this time around is that we’ll be doing simultaneous flight tests with two widebody airplanes. So, with the overlap in the 747-8 and 787 flight test programs there’s isn’t the room to perform both at once from our Puget Sound field locations. But we’ve worked out a good plan with the Boeing Test and Evaluation team to make the most efficient use of our resources, while accommodating the test, certification and delivery schedules for both the 747-8 Freighter and the 787 Dreamliner.
We took a look at several ideas and concluded that the way to do this is to take advantage not only of the traditional resources in the Seattle area, but also other locations.
So, the 787 Dreamliner flight test program will be based at Boeing Field while the flight testing for airplanes 1, 2, and 3 for the 747-8 program will be conducted at “remote” sites.
The plan calls for operating the 747-8 Initial Airworthiness testing out of Moses Lake, in central Washington state where there’s a large airfield often used for testing and training. We can also perform limited testing on two of the three 747-8 test airplanes at Boeing Field during this time without impacting the ramp-up of the 787 test fleet.
The 3 flight test 747-8 Freighters are nearing completion in final assembly.
After Initial Airworthiness is achieved on the 747-8, the remainder of the flight test program for that airplane will move to another large airfield, in Palmdale, in Southern California. We’ll deploy Puget Sound test and program personnel to Palmdale to support the operations there.
Clearly, coordinating and completing the multiple flight testing activities for 9 airplanes - six 787 Dreamliner flight test airplanes and three 747-8 flight test airplanes – will require the use of remote locations. This also provides us the unique conditions we need for certain key tests such as hot or cold temperatures, calm weather, and high wind conditions.
We think that about 50% of the total flight test program hours - for both the 787 and 747-8 Freighter - will take place at a variety of remote locations that have these unique conditions.
This is a big challenge. But as I mentioned, we’ve done simultaneous flight test programs before, and we don’t see it impacting schedules. This plan - including moving the 747-8 Freighter to remote locations - will allow us to accommodate the schedule and resource requirements of both programs.
The Ground Vibration Test (GVT) is underway in the factory in the run-up to 747-8 flight test. GVT simulates vibrations and responses the airplane will experience in the air and helps clear the way for high speed flight testing.
All of the technical details aside, for those of us who love aviation, the next several months are truly going to be exciting and historic times for Boeing and our industry as the world’s two newest commercial airplanes take to the skies for the first time.