Following a very long wait for the first flight of the Dreamliner, the Boeing 787 Flight Test Program is finally progressing in full swing.
Boeing plans to complete the Flight Test Schedule of the new composite 787 Dreamliner model with 6 test airplanes. They are code-named as ZA001 -> ZA006.
ZA001: The first plane to fly, it is destined for general flight tests. Painted in the Dreamliner Marketing color scheme and temporarily registered as N787BA, the plane has been clocking up flight hours since December 15, 2009. It actually suffered an “uncommanded loss of thrust in one of the engines” last Friday (February 19), but such events are totally acceptable during flight testing. The aircraft was carrying out flutter testing (a dangerous test of the wings, the tail and the aircraft structure against in-flight vibrations), and executed an unplanned landing at Grant County International Airport in central Washington State, some 200 miles East from Paine Field. The Trent 1000 engines were inspected together with manufacturer Rolls-Royce, and the issue was traced back to “a pressure-sensing component within the engine”. Parts were transported to the aircraft and it returned to Paine Field, Everett on Sunday morning. Boeing VP-Marketing Randy Tinseth said ZA001 “will soon return to flutter testing. . .This is what happens during flight testing–and our plan accommodates such events.”
ZA002: The second plane to fly, it is focusing on systems performance tests. Painted in launch customer Japanese All Nippon Airways (ANA)’s color scheme, it carries the temporary registration: N787EX. It first flew just one week after ZA001, on December 22, 2009.
ZA003: This plane will join the test fleet at a later date.
ZA004: The third 787 to start the flight test program, but actually the fourth test aircraft built. It carries the preliminary registration N7874 and is painted in the white version of the Dreamliner Boeing scheme. It took off on its first flight on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 11:43 am local time, from Paine Field, Everett. According to Boeing, this plane flew before the ZA003 because the data that it will collect “is needed more quickly both for certification and development of the 787-9” (the planned longer version of the 787). ZA004 flew for 3 hours and 2 minutes, reached an altitude of 30,000 feet and an airspeed of 255 knots (293 miles or 472 km/h)and “operated flawlessly,” according to Captain Heather Ross – who is probably the first woman flying the 787 Dreamliner. Together with Craig Bomben they completed the flight at 2:45 p.m., landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. Flight-test personnel were also on board to monitor airplane performance. Ross will serve as chief pilot for ZA004. This airplane will be used to accomplish the following types of tests: aerodynamics, high-speed performance, propulsion performance, flight loads, community noise and extended operations (ETOPS) and other test conditions. As the testing of the 787 fleet progresses, the airplane will fly at its expected in-service maximum altitude of 40,000 feet (12,192 m) and speed of Mach 0.85.