Friday, February 18, 2011

Boeing 787 and 747-8 freeze in Fairbanks, Alaska cold

Two brawny Boeing jets have made a big impression at Fairbanks International Airport during the past week.

The aerospace company is taking advantage of a February cold snap to test two of its newest aircraft, the Boeing 747-8 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in extreme weather conditions. The massive white airplanes — unadorned with any decorations except for a “747” and a “787” painted across their respective tailfins — have been a regular presence on the runway outside Alaska Aerofuel.

The jets have drawn gawkers for much of the past week. Alaska Aeofuel has handled logistics for the Boeing trip since the 747-8 arrived Thursday, and people have come with cameras since then to get a shot of the airplanes as they sit on the nearby runway.

A Boeing commercial aircraft spokesman couldn’t be reached to discuss the visit to Fairbanks, but a news release said the planes are in a three-stage safety testing regimen. After determining initial airworthiness and verifying the stability of the airplane, Boeing works to test its functionality and reliability.

That translates into cold-weather tests in locations like Fairbanks and hot-weather trials in Arizona, as well as takeoffs and landings at high-altitude airports. Over-speed conditions, hard landings and engine-out conditions also are tested, according to Boeing.

The 787 Dreamliner is dubbed a “super efficient airplane,” with some versions of the 186-foot-long plane capable of carrying as many as 290 passengers 8,500 nautical miles. Boeing said the plane will travel at speeds similar to the fastest modern wide-body jets, at Mach 0.85.

The concept has proven popular — 847 of the airplanes have been ordered by 57 customers, with a backlog value of $164 billion.

General Electric and Rolls Royce have developed engines for the 787 Dreamliner, which is being assembled at a plant in Everett, Wash. Boeing hopes the 787 Dreamliner will go into service later this year.

The 747-8 is the fourth generation of the 250-foot-long jet series, with a typical capacity of 467 passengers, 51 more than the current generation. Boeing also is trumpeting the efficiency of the 747-8, which it says will have the “lowest ton-mile costs of any freighter.”

Thirty-three of the passenger models of the Boeing 747-8 aircraft have been ordered, according to Boeing, along with 74 cargo versions. It expects to begin delivering the planes in mid-2011.

(Jeff Richardson - Fairbanks Daily News - Miner)


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