A Boeing 787 has taken to the air today as part of the test campaign to get it certified for type and commercial flight again.
This was the first time one took to the air since 11th February 2013, and the 2nd time since the commercial fleet was grounded – which is going on for over 2 months.
The flight today was a 135 minute “check flight”, using a LOT Polish Airlines 787 – fitted with the improvements to the battery design as well as improved enclosure designs in the aft and forward electrical equipment bays of the aircraft.
Whilst this flight ensured the systems worked, it stopped short of validating the designs changes that are needed. Boeing will be expected to conduct a re-certification flight towards the end of next week, marking the end current process – where it turns to the Federal Aviation Administration to accept the changes of the redesigned battery and electrical containment system.
If the redesign is nodded through, this could pave the way for airlines to dust off their 787 fleets, get the redesigned batteries and electrical systems refitted – allowing for a return to flight.
There is a question that grates at the back of my mind still: There has been no definitive cause identified yet for the short-circuit that caused the fire on the Japan Airlines 787 or the thermal runaway on the All Nippon Airlines 787.
Whilst the protection that is going in is not bad thing, with the battery design now an airtight sealed box with an external vent if something does go wrong with a battery, I would still love some answers to why the batteries went that way in the first place.
Is it enough? I’m not convinced still. One test flight can prove some things – more tests are needed, especially to see if this new design will be enough for the strains that will be placed on it…