Radio banter reveals 787 first flight details (updated)

A circuit breaker reset on the 787's first flight turned out to be on test equipment in the plane and not on the plane itself, according to a Boeing spokeswoman.

The 787's Dreamliner's first flight sounded like it was not without a hitch or two, but a circuit breaker reset  mentioned in the air to ground radio banter turned out to be on test equipment in the plane, not on the plane itself, according to a Boeing spokeswoman.

Dennis Eckert, who says he's a former reporter with the AP from Snosqualmie, Wash.,  monitored the flight's air to ground conversations on a scanner. The circuit break reset aspect of the story was also covered in the Everett (Wash.) Herald. The plane took off from Paine Field in Everett.

The Boeing spokeswoman labeled the circuit breaker reset of "no significance."

Here's Eckert's e-mail which I picked up in the Denver Airport on my way back to Boston. Certainly, nothing sounds too dire, but the banter as relayed by Eckert is interesting for its sharp detail of what goes on during a test flight. Here's his e-mail.

"Hello John,

I thought you might be interested in some info I provided to the Everett Herald.  I'm a former AP reporter who has used scanners to break some interesting stories.  The Herald reporter, Amy Rolph, asked the flight crew about the two incidents I heard but they would not comment on them.  What I found most interesting is that one of the pilots had to leave the flight deck to reset circuit breakers.

Each time the flight crew did a new maneuver as laid out in their playbook, they would first check with Boeing Flight Test on the ground to make sure that the the ground station was getting telemetry.  One of two times, the telemetry link dropped so they held off on new manuevers until it was re-established.  So, then each manuever was preceded by a countdown 3-2-1, Executing now.  BTW, the radio frequency used by Boeing 001, chase planes et al was 123.475.  One of the earliest tests they did was to recycle the front wheel assembly and gear door to see whether they would have the same problem as they did on first flight the 777 (which I also monitored).  What's also interesting is the degree to which they went to find 'holes' in the cloud deck so they could head for Eastern WA."

Eckert sent the next paragraph in a subsequent e-mail.

"Oh, another aspect.  They radioed how they tried to keep below 5,000 due to icing and visibility issues.  Around 1PM, Carriker radioed Flight Test that they intended to land around 1:15PM.  There was a pause then he said something like "What time did we rotate from Paine?"  Flight Test told him (I think they said either 1027 or 1029 local) and Carriker responded, "OK, we'll aim for a 1:30PM touchdown and that will make it at least three hours."

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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