I just came across an article on Wired about Boeing's new 787-10 where they said the type had been tested for over 5000 hours in a range of conditions.

Obviously, the very first model is tested to extremes but when full scale production starts what kind of testing is typically done on each individual plane ?


Testing is performed for specific reasons. As you noted testing for certification and testing production aircraft are not the same.

Testing for certification is to establish that the design of the aircraft meets airworthiness standards. A guide is available in the form of AC 25-7C.

Testing production aircraft is primarily a quality control issue and serves to prove that the aircraft is built to the drawings -- that it complies with the approved design. It's only a small part of the process and is discussed in section 2.7 of AC 21-43A.

As noted, in the AC a flight test is required (with one exception). Production testing will evolve over time as there is a constant effort to 1. ensure adequate test coverage to avoid quality 'escapes' and 2. to do it as efficiently as possible to minimize costs.

One other test that is typically performed is an acceptance test. This is not regulatory. It is contractual and is performed with the participation of the customer. Airlines won't accept delivery of an aircraft until they're satisfied it meets everything they're paying for. A friend of mine who worked for an airline's engineering group said it was about a 4 or 5 day process to checkout and accept delivery of a plane.


That depends upon how long the plane has been in production. By the time an aircraft has been in production for a while, there is usually only one flight test (in addition to testing on the ground).

When the first production model comes of the line, it gets a lot of testing. Then there is a list of problems identified. Subsequent tests will focus on those problems.

Thus, you switch from trying many things to see if a problem occurs to trying specific things to see if specific problems occur.


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