January 18, 2011

Boeing Resumes Dreamliner FAA Certification Flights

Boeing resumed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification test flights for the 787 Dreamliner on Monday, roughly two months after an electrical fire that occurred while the craft was airborne and forced the plane to be temporarily grounded.

According to Seattle Times Aerospace Reporter Dominic Gates, Dreamliner No. 4 was the first 787 series to resume certification flights, departing from Yuma, Arizona on Monday and successfully demonstrating that the plane can safely jettison fuel, as it would be required to do during an emergency landing.

Gates reports that Boeing "has been flying limited test flights since the end of the year for its own testing purposes, but none that counted toward certification. The resumption of the certification flights with FAA approval is an encouraging sign the 787 program will soon pin down a new delivery schedule after the setback from the fire that forced an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas."

Four of the Dreamliners are back to "flight status" and two others should return to the skies "within the next week or so," Boeing officials said in a statement Monday, according to AFP reports.

"Boeing has said the Laredo incident may have been caused by some debris in the electrical panel. The in-flight fire caused a series of system failures, including loss of the main pilot flight displays," Gates said.

"To protect against a repetition, Boeing has proposed some minor hardware changes to guard against debris and more extensive software changes so that the 787's electrical-distribution system will respond better to the failure of one electrical panel," the Seattle Times reporter added.

The announcement that certification flights had resumed "raises expectations that the long-anticipated announcement on the revised program schedule may be imminent," Guy Norris of Aviation Week reported on Tuesday.

Some analysts have projected a four-month delay from the original delivery date, which had been scheduled for the middle of February. However, Norris noted that those mid-year predictions "may be short of the mark" and that some airlines are beginning to fear "more serious delays of six months or worse."

Image Courtesy The Boeing Company


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