Boeing has begun cold soak testing of the new 787 Dreamliner at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. The testing is taking place in the McKinley Climatic Chamber, a massive hangar where the temperature can be controlled to simulate everything from the deep freeze of high altitudes, to the baking heat of the deserts. Boeing expects the testing to last for two weeks.
All new airliners must undergo climatic testing to ensure that systems work in all temperature ranges the aircraft is expected to experience. Inside the climate chamber at Eglin, the temperature has been turned down to a chilly -45 Fahrenheit. At those temperatures flight test technicians will follow the Airplane Maintenance Manual as if preparing the 787 for a flight. This process will thoroughly test the airplane’s systems in conditions the airplane could encounter during airline operations.
There was much debate to where the 787 would undergo cold soak testing after delays in the flight test program made it clear the timing meant a trip to arctic Canada would not coincide with winter. The Airbus A380 flew to Iqaluit, Canada where it spent several days at temperatures below -30C in February of 2006. One guess for the 787 program was that it might have flown to Antarctica where it could have landed on an ice runway and experienced the chilly temperatures of a southern hemisphere fall.
Instead Boeing announced the 787 would simply head to Florida where the temperatures could be closely controlled inside the climate chamber. The company says in addition to the cold soak, the 787 will go through the same tests at temperatures as high as 115 Fahrenheit to simulate peak summer conditions in the hottest climates on earth.
Check out the video from Boeing after the jump.