Boeing's 787-9 will spend this week basking under the intense Australian sun as the aircraft undergoes gruelling 'hot weather' testing – a necessary step before the long-range Dreamliner is certified for use by airlines.
The special test plane – the second of only three 787-9s built to date – is outfitted with extensive equipment to measure and monitor almost every aspect of the jet's performance ahead of its mid-year debut with worldwide launch partner Air New Zealand.
And for now that includes a week in Alice Springs, located in the geographic centre of Australia, to prove that the next-jen jetliner can handle the very hottest of operating temperates.
And while average January temperatures in Alice Springs hover around 36 degrees Celsius (97.5 degrees Fahrenheit), Boeing hopes the mercury will rise even higher – ideally, beyond 38 degrees Celsius – to make the most of the testing.
Ryan Smith, Boeing's Test Operations Manager for the 787-9 program, explains that these hot tests see the jet wheeled out from its hanger "in a flightworthy stage early in the morning and letting it bake under the sun until the late afternoon."
"Then we will turn all the systems on and let the airplane cool off" Smith tells Australian Business Traveller, before taking off for a flight of "between one to two hours" to check that the aircraft and its systems perform within specification.
That's good news for planespotters at Alice Springs, who should have plenty of opportunity to see the 787-9 in action during its evening sorties.
The big chill...
Having ticked the 'hot test' box, will the Dreamliner then be subject to a cold test?
"We’ll also have a very short cold weather campaign on this airplane, essentially for the FAA requirements, although we've already been able to satisfy most of those with the 787-8" Smith says.
However, Boeing will also put the Dreamliner through even more rigourous cold weather testing when the plane is ordered by airlines operating in the chilliest climes.
"The first 787-9 customer that requires (additional) cold weather testing is quite a long way downstream", Smith explains.
"Different countries have different regulations so whatever airlines require it, we will go and validate that the airplane works within those specific requirements."
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