Boeing announced on December 9 that it has commenced final gauntlet testing on the first 787 (MSN ZA001), raising the prospect that the aircraft may be ready to make its first flight earlier than expected.
The gauntlet tests simulate operating the aircraft’s systems in flight, and are conducted in two blocks. The first block includes a standard check of all systems using the first flight profile, as well as building in potential failure conditions. The second block will be more rigourous, testing an expanded flight profile and is aimed at replicating the actual tests which will be undertaken during its first flight.
Gauntlet testing was conducted on ZA001 earlier this year before Boeing announced that it was delaying the flight program to address a wing join issue, and ran for one week. However, Boeing’s Randy Tinseth said in his blog that these new tests were not expected to run as long, potentially meaning that it could be ready for first flight before the mooted December 22 date, with some sources claiming that this could come as early as December 15.