787 passes power milestone

Boeing has completed the 'Power On' sequence for the first 787 Dreamliner, marking the completion of a major step on the path to first flight by the end of this year.

'Power On' is a series of tasks and tests that bring electrical power onto the aeroplane and begin to exercise the use of the electrical systems. The 787 is a 'more-electric' aeroplane with the pneumatic, or bleed air, system being totally replaced by electronics.

The 787 production schedule has slipped repeatedly, with Boeing executives saying as recently as this January that first flight would take place "around the end of the second quarter". Three flight-test aircraft are currently at various stages of assembly, as is the fatigue-test airframe.

"The team has made great progress in bringing the bold innovation of the 787 to reality," said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of the 787 programme. "There is plenty of work to be done between now and first flight, but with every step forward we grow more and more confident."

The 'Power On' sequence began in early June with a series of pre-test continuity checks to verify that the wiring installed in the aircraft had been connected properly. On completion of those checks, the Boeing team plugged in an external power cart and began to bring full power into each segment of the system, beginning with the flight deck displays. From that point forward, the pilot's controls were used to direct the addition of new systems to the power grid.

At each step of the testing, power was allowed to flow into one additional area and gauges were used to verify that the right level of electrical power reached the intended area. "We are very methodical in ensuring the integrity of the plane's systems," said Shanahan. "In completing the 'Power On' sequence, we have verified both that the electrical power distribution system is installed as designed and that it functions as intended."

Work will continue to finish building the first 787 and further test its readiness for operations. First flight is currently expected in the fourth quarter.

The 787 Dreamliner is a mid-sized jetliner designed for fuel efficiency and capable of serving on long-distance routes. Boeing says it is expected to enter revenue service in 2009.


Image: Boeing test technician Dave Haskell plugs an external power cart into the first 787 Dreamliner as part of the Power-On testing sequence [Boeing photo]

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