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The 787 Dreamliner lifts its nose during taxi run  (Source: Boeing)
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner inches closer to its first flight

Boeing's highly anticipated 787 Dreamliner is more than two years late, but things are finally starting to kick into high gear with the aircraft's development. Over the weekend, Boeing test pilots taxied the jet down the runway at 150 mph and managed to lift its nose off the ground [video].

"Our pilots told me the airplane performed beautifully," said 787 chief project engineer Mike Delaney. "We're going through and analyzing the data to ensure we're ready for first flight. From evaluations we've done so far, everything looks good."

While this may seem like a small step to some, this is just the precursor to the big event which is scheduled for Tuesday. On Tuesday at 10 am PST -- if all goes according to plan -- Boeing's 787 will take to the air for the first time. According to HeraldNet, the composite-bodied aircraft will remain aloft for more than five hours as critical systems and flight performance/handling characteristics are carefully monitored.

3News reports that roughly 600 engineers and 400 mechanics will be on hand for the exhaustive nine-month flight testing phase of the program. During this phase, six aircraft will be flown on a regular basis to work out any problems that are bound to crop up during typical flight testing.

The 787 has been plagued with problems during its prolonged development. Most recently, problems with the aircraft's wingbox were discovered. It was found that composite sheets covering the wings were delaminating under stress.

Many of the problems surrounding the 787, however, have come from the fact that much of the production of key components of the aircraft have been farmed out to different contractors around the world.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO and president Scott Carson noted in early 2008, "The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO and president Scott Carson. "However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply-chain."

For those that haven't been keeping up with the program, the 787's airframe is composed of 50 percent composites, 20 percent aluminum, 15 percent titanium, and 10 percent steel. The 787 can cruise at Mach 0.85 and uses 20 percent less fuel than a comparable Airbus A330. For those that like to stay connected while in the air, the 787 also features built-in wired networking.

Boeing has 840 firm orders for its sleek 787 Dreamliner as of November 2009.



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RE: Many of the problems surrounding the 787....
By Amiga500 on 12/14/2009 1:42:03 PM , Rating: -1
Overweight compared to both (by far). Unfortunately for the moment, there are various limitations on how composites can be used, so the final layups are usually approaching quasi-isotropic. As I alluded to earlier, there are developments in the pipeline that will help an awful lot... but they are the guts of 15 years down the line.

For the moment, composites are heavier, harder to design, quite unknown in terms of impact tolerance, environmental degradation, lightening strike attenuation, crack propagation...

A composites component can be made bigger, reducing the overall part count of a plane, but saying that reduces costs is a fallacy, which I'm quite scared is going to potentially bring down one of Boeing, Bombardier or Airbus (perhaps even more than one).

If the weight savings were there, then yes, it is maybe worth it (dependant on impact tolerance). Right now, they aren't. PR is saying "we need composites cos they are the next big thing and we need them to sell planes"... yes, they are the next big thing - but we aren't at the stage yet.

Mitsubushi have made the correct call in scrapping composites for most PSEs on their MRJ. Particularly PSEs of significant size that require very exacting tolerances.

(Im sure all the educated folk that downrated the comments know what a PSE is... right?)


By rangerdavid on 12/14/2009 2:29:53 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not starting a flame war, I'm just calling "BS" on you on you for this:

quote:
For the moment, composites are heavier, harder to design, quite unknown in terms of impact tolerance, environmental degradation, lightening strike attenuation, crack propagation...


Please explain this further. Are you suggesting that Boeing used composites solely to reduce the part count for ease of manufacturing? Are you talking about extruded or intruded plastics?

If Boeing says it has used such a high proportion of composite materials in this airframe to reduce weight, what evidence do you have to the contrary (both of some ulterior motive, and (what I consider a very strange assertion) that composites are "heavy" and untested?


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