Boeing Says 1st 787 Test Jet Grounded Due to Engine Surge

Boeing Co. parked one of its five 787 Dreamliner test jets while crews replace a Rolls-Royce Group Plc engine that experienced a power surge before takeoff.

It’s too soon to tell whether the 787’s test schedule may be affected, Yvonne Leach, a Boeing spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview. The surge occurred Sept. 10 before a flight in Roswell, New Mexico, and the crew wasn’t in danger, she said.

“We’ll resume testing as soon as possible,” Leach said.

The 787’s first delivery has been delayed six times in two years as Boeing grapples with new materials, parts shortages, redesign work and a greater reliance on suppliers. The latest postponement came Aug. 27, when Chicago-based Boeing said Rolls- Royce couldn’t supply an engine needed to finish flight trials.

Leach said last week’s incident was isolated to one engine on the test plane and wasn’t related to an Aug. 2 engine failure at a Rolls-Royce plant in Derby, England. That case forced Rolls-Royce to close a site used to test power plants for the 787 and the Airbus SAS A350.

Rolls-Royce, the world’s second-biggest maker of aircraft engines, is working closely with Boeing on the matter, said Josh Rosenstock, a spokesman. He declined to comment further.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

One of the Rolls-Royce engines on a Boeing 787. Close

One of the Rolls-Royce engines on a Boeing 787.

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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

One of the Rolls-Royce engines on a Boeing 787.

“Power surges do occur,” said Fred Mirgle, retired chairman of aviation maintenance at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “It’s not something that I would get really excited about.”

Maintaining equal thrust from engines on each side of a plane is important because it gives the pilot optimum control during flight.

Test Program

The Dreamliner test fleet has completed 596 flights spanning more than 1,850 hours, according to Boeing’s website, as the planemaker works toward certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for the twin-engine 787 to enter commercial service. It is the first jetliner to be made chiefly from composite plastics.

The plane in New Mexico is the first 787 to be assembled. It made its maiden flight in December and was in Roswell for tests of its brake system. Boeing, whose commercial operations are based in Seattle, sent a spare engine to be installed on the test plane after the power surge, Leach said.

“Once that’s complete, of course, we’re going to get the airplane back in the air,” she said.

Tests on the replacement engine are expected as early as Sept. 17, and if they’re satisfactory, the work being done at Roswell could resume the following day, trade publication Aviation Week reported on its website earlier today.

Boeing fell 3 cents to $62.73 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 16 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net

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