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When a Boeing flight test team boarded the 9th 787 Dreamliner last Saturday, they knew they were likely making history. If everything went according to plan, they would complete the last tests required to certify the all-new airplane.
"Getting to the point where you've worked so hard for so many years [and] you're at the end, it's just unbelievable," said flight test engineer Danielle Crocker.
Just as the fog started rolling in, the team set off from Everett, Wash., to complete function and reliability testing, where the airplane would be put through more real-life airline situations.
Six hours later, the fog having burned off and the sun now shining, the team returned to Everett and landed a spot in aviation history. The flight marked the completion of flight tests required for type certification of the 787 Dreamliner with Rolls-Royce engines.
Flight testing continues for 787s with GE engines and for Boeing test points not related to certification.
"In every case, the airplane has achieved everything that we desired." Mike Sinnett, 787 Chief Project Engineer
Boeing devised an extensive test program to validate the revolutionary design of the Dreamliner, a twin-aisle airplane that makes extensive use of strong but lightweight carbon composites, incorporates more electric systems and advance aerodynamics.
To date, the 787 test fleet has flown just over 1,700 flights, racked up more than 4800 flight hours and performed more than 25,000 test conditions.
"I'm used to landing the airplane 100,000 pounds overweight," said Captain Mike Carriker, chief pilot for the 787. "I'm used to flying it with the overweight warning going on for hours on end or flying the airplane with an engine turned off."
Other test conditions included:
"This is all done to demonstrate the robustness of the airplane in the event of almost anything that could happen to it," said 787 chief project engineer Mike Sinnett. "And in every case, the airplane has achieved everything that we desired."
"You know when the airplane landed, it had with it all of the hopes, the dreams, the hard work of the tens of thousands of men and women of Boeing and our partners around the world who've labored so long and so hard on this airplane," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "And it really does demonstrate what a great airplane that we're bringing to the market."
For Capt. Carriker, who was in the flight deck for the first and last flight, it was a long journey worth savoring.
"To look at all those features working seamlessly and you understand all the work it took to get there, you're just so proud of the tenaciousness of the team that put it together." Capt. Mike Carriker, 787 Chief Pilot
"It started as drawn pieces of paper, and then colored drawings and then desktop simulations, and today we finished the last certification flight. To look at all those features working seamlessly and you understand all the work it took to get there, you're just so proud of the tenaciousness of the team that put it together and you wish they all could have been there to watch it."