Hot 'n cold

I’ve often been asked by journalists and industry analysts, “What do you do when a flight test program requires us to find, say, cold weather to test in during warm weather months?”

In other words, how and where will we perform our cold weather testing at this point?

As I mentioned yesterday, ZA003 is in Florida this week with a crew of more than 100 people who traveled there from Seattle. It’s where we’re conducting extreme weather testing (both hot and cold) - at McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base.

image/photo

The 787 inside the test chamber in the process of getting the ambient temperature to below -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

You might think that Florida - in the southern United States - is an odd place for cold weather testing, but the McKinley lab has a special test chamber for this purpose. It’s a historic facility - a location that’s been used before to demonstrate the capabilities of the B-2 and a number of other high-tech aerospace products.

For the Dreamliner we’ll first be doing a rigorous series of cold weather tests there. The airplane is cooled to -15 Fahrenheit (-26 C) for one series of tests and then to -45 degrees Fahrenheit (-42.7 C) for another series.

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Looks pretty cold, doesn’t it? Click above to check out a video and feature story about the “cold soak” testing going on in Florida.

The airplane will remain at each temperature setting for about eight hours - to simulate being parked outside overnight in very cold weather. Then we start the auxiliary power unit (APU) and put the systems through their paces.

So, that’s the cold part. Once that’s complete, we switch to hot weather testing. In this phase we expose the 787 to high heat - from 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C) to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 C).

The airplane will sit at the high temperature for several hours, and then we’ll use our documented operating and maintenance procedures to power up and operate the airplane systems. Operations inside the hangar will include APU start and a thorough exercising of the systems including the air conditioners and galley chillers.

These tests help us establish that our customers will get airplanes that work for them in all of the climates in which they operate around the globe (and in all seasons).

Comments (6)

P.Sumantri (France):

So, where are you going to perform the cold soak test?
In Florida! (click)

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

This is the first time I have seen a civilian aircraft have a weather test performed inside a purpose built facility as usually a civilian aircraft is taken to an environment around the world where the test temperatures and environment can be found.

This is good to get the test temperatures that are needed to perform the test that could not be gotten in a current natural environment but it should not substitute all temperature and environmental testing.

John Drollinger (Renton, Wa):

Thank you so much for bringing us all these updates. The flight test program is a very interesting one and with the updates the One Boeing company can feel like we are all right there together.

John (Seattle, WA):

Is there any data collected at the temperature extremes regarding the composite structural components during the testing at this facility? And, does Boeing have to rent out the facility from the Air Force when they conduct tests in this lab?

tom edwards:

Seems like there are some big advantages in testing in a controlled evironment. You have the ability to go to a temperature, stay at that temperature, then move on to a different one. You can't do that in outer iceapolis

SMU Cox MBA (Dallas, TX):

You're welcome to come here - say about the end of August - for your heat test :) That's usually when we have our string of 100+ degree days.

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