Boeing last week was involved in part of the final stress test certification on the 777-9 with the FAA.
This involves over-pressurising the test aircraft in a closed environment, bending the wings to the point they nearly snap and generally putting the aircraft through situations it will never face in operational circumstances.
The test was under way when a door exploded and blew out of the side of the aircraft, “leaving a stunned silence”.
Engineers involved were shocked and nobody could apparently ever recall such an event in the past.
The whole point of these tests is to discover faults and problems though normally at this stage these have been ironed out.
So it’s now back to why it happened, find a solution and then re-test. With aircraft already on the production line – however slowly it must be moving right now- this is another unwelcome delay.
General Electric still haven’t presented a definitive date for their engine test certification and flight testing to begin. Many aren’t expecting it until March next year. It’s looking like a full 12 month delay to deliveries is now on the cards.
The pressure is growing from the airlines too. Emirates this week made it clear – and Virgin Atlantic expressed similar concerns- that engine issues have defined their choice of aircraft, and that unreliable engines simply will not be accepted any more.
Other airlines like Qatar and Singapore are said to feel the same way but are far less public in their criticism.
Boeing simply cannot afford to get the 777-X wrong. The consequences of a 737MAX level failure on an aircraft of that size would be a catastrophe the company would have a hard time coming back from, if it ever did.