Boeing 787 test aircraft ZA003 has begun its nearly two week long period of extreme weather testing at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, with the commencement of “cold soak” testing.
During the cold soak test the hangar’s temperature is lowered to as low as -43 degrees Celcius for a period of several hours, “after which flight test technicians will follow the 787 Airplane Maintenance Manual to perform the steps required to prepare the airplane for flight release and operate under these conditions,” according to the manufacturer. “Sensors and monitors will allow the test team to determine if all systems hardware and software operate as expected.”
After the cold soak the 787 will then similarly be tested in extreme heat conditions of up to +46 deg C.
“This is really the only place in the world we could go in April that would give us the kind of cold temperatures that we need,” said Tom Sanderson, flight test director for ZA003, of the McKinley facility, the world’s largest refrigerated hangar. “We have a lot of new systems on this aircraft and we want to make sure it’s all functioning properly in extreme situations.”
Boeing says additional extreme weather testing will be completed later in the aircraft’s flight test program.