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787s return, but tests still on hold

Boeing can’t say when an investigation of an electrical fire will be completed and flight testing can resume.

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
Published:
Flight testing of the Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner remains on hold, despite the return Tuesday of two 787 test planes to the Puget Sound region.
Boeing is continuing to investigate the electrical fire that forced an emergency landing of the company’s second 787 on Nov. 9, in Laredo, Texas. The company grounded its fleet of six 787 test planes after the incident. A week after the fire, Boeing has yet to determine the effect of the event on 787 deliveries.
“I will tell you that we don’t have a lot of margin in the flight test program,” Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s chief of marketing for commercial airplanes, told the Associated Press. “The airplane hasn’t been flying for a week. We don’t know when it will be resolved, so you can do the math.” He said that the first delivery is still “nominally” scheduled for the mid-first quarter of 2011.
The company had been expected to deliver the first 787 in February to Japan’s All Nippon Airways. The Dreamliner program already was running nearly three years behind schedule before the electrical fire. And some 787 customers had said their Dreamliner deliveries had been postponed by as much as 10 months before the incident last week.
“No decision has been reached on when flight testing of the 787 will resume. Before that decision can be made, we must complete the investigation and assess whether any design changes are necessary,” Boeing said in a statement.
Although testing is on hold, Boeing brought back two 787s to Seattle — a plan that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved, Boeing said. Boeing’s first 787, which was in Rapid City, S.D., arrived at Boeing Field shortly around noon Tuesday. The pilots reported that the flight was uneventful, wrote Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter in an e-mail. The fifth 787 flew back from Victorville, Calif., late in the afternoon.
Boeing did not conduct tests on the flights to Seattle.
Boeing had a few new details about the Nov. 9 fire on the second 787. The fire lasted less than 30 seconds, the company said. And the airplane would have been able to return to an airport for normal landing after the fire, Boeing said.
Boeing workers removed a panel from the rear electronics bay on the second Dreamliner where the fire started. That panel was sent to Seattle late last week to be inspected. Boeing’s team in Texas has completed its inspection of the second 787 and is preparing to install a new power panel and new insulation material, Boeing said. The workers also are repairing minor structural damage from the event.
Boeing is evaluating how long the work will take. Boeing’s shares dropped 1.3 percent Tuesday to close at $62.78.
Story tags » Boeing

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