Boeing 787: Engine Surge During Flight Tests

The causes of a Trent 1000 engine surge that has grounded flight tests of the first Boeing 787 at Roswell, New Mexico are currently being investigated by Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Boeing also is assessing whether the latest engine incident may cause further slips in the hard-pressed 787 delivery schedule. The failure occurred on Sept. 10 during ground tests of the first 787, ZA001, which was at Roswell for Block 1 rejected takeoff work, plus brake demonstration certification and stability and control tests. The aircraft, which has been based at Edwards Air Force Base in California, for most of August for runway performance work, was on its second visit to Roswell, having earlier been there for wet runway testing.

According to Boeing, the ZA001 “experienced an engine surge during testing on Friday afternoon. The event occurred prior to takeoff and the crew completed the appropriate maneuvers. Back-up systems performed as designed, and the crew and the aircraft were safe throughout the event.”

Boeing adds that it is working with Rolls-Royce to “investigate the event and understand the root cause.” However it says early results, based on initial input from the “team on the ground in Roswell, indicate that this engine failure is not related to the test event in Derby.”

Last Aug. 2, a similar event occurred on a Package A initial delivery configuration engine running on Rolls-Royce’s Bed 58 indoor test site in Derby in the U.K. The engine suffered an uncontained, intermediate pressure, turbine-related failure due to what Rolls describes as tests in an “inappropriate operating regime.” The disruption caused by the engine problem, added to ongoing inspection issues with the horizontal stabilizer, forced Boeing to push back first 787 deliveries to launch customer All Nippon Airways to February 2011.

Of the latest incident, the manufacturer states, “It’s too early to determine if there will be any impact to schedule. We need to let the team do the necessary work to understand what happened and what caused it.” It adds, however, that “this appears to be an isolated incident, though a full study will be made to ensure thorough understanding.”

Boeing says that a flight test engine is available and that “the team is installing it in New Mexico and will resume testing soon.” Initial engine check-out flight tests are expected to take place as early as Sept. 17. If the engine tests are satisfactory, the ZA001 test team expects to resume brake and stability and control tests the following day.


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