Boeing's Dreamliner Is About To Undergo A Crucial Test Flight

boeing 787 dreamliner polish lot test flight march 25, 2013

The single test flight to evaluate the redesigned battery system Boeing wants to implement in its Dreamliner passenger jet is scheduled for this afternoon, at 2 p.m. EST.

The flight is meant to demonstrate that the new system performs as intended, Boeing said in a statement today.

The plane, a Boeing-owned 787 built for LOT Polish Airlines, will take off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, and will be in the air for about two hours.

Its path can be tracked on FlightAware.com.

Boeing will provide updates via Twitter (@BoeingAirplanes).

The Dreamliner has been out of service since the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive on January 16, following two incidents in quick succession where the battery system failed.

The “comprehensive and robust” three-part plan calls for stopping battery cells from short-circuiting in the first place, preventing such failure from spreading throughout the battery, and making sure the plane is not damaged if all that happens anyway, with a sealed battery enclosure.

It does not address the root cause of the failures, which is still unknown, and likely to remain that way.

Today’s flight will be accompanied by extensive testing on the ground, which Boeing says is actually more effective than testing in the air.

Boeing Vice President Ron Hinderberger told the Chicago Sun Times:

In our lab, we are actually able to not only simulate the aeroplane environment, but we are able to do so with a much greater degree of instrumentation and monitoring than we could on the aeroplane. That combined with the fact that the battery really doesn’t provide much from a functionality standpoint in flight led us and the FAA to confidently conclude that the single flight test was appropriate for demonstrating compliance to this change.

Boeing says the testing process is now about one third complete and shold be finished within a few weeks. The final decision to return the Dreamliner to flight in the U.S. rests with the FAA.

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