The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has started it’s fatigue testing. The fatigue test frame might look like a crazy construction rig, but think of it more like a time machine.
The fatigue rig will put the Boeing 787 through 100,000 simulated flights, which is equivalent to about three times an expect life of the Dreamliner. The best part? It never has to leave the ground.
The fatigue test rig simulates every part of the flight. From the push back at the airport to the arrival at its destination. This process is called a ground-air-ground (GAG) cycle. Boeing has five different GAG cycles that put the aircraft through different simulations, ranging in duration and flight severity.
While the structural test program already has validated the strength of the airframe, fatigue testing looks at long-term, continued use. It allows Boeing engineers to see what will give over time and create inspection techniques for airlines.
“Every kid’s dream is to build something and then try to break it, right?,” asks Peter Brownlow, the fatigue testing conductor for the 787 program. “In essence, that’s what we’re doing. We take an airplane and we try to put it through its paces and try to break it at the end.”
To create this havoc, 100 mechanical devices have been connected to the exterior of the Dreamliner. Engineers in a control room use the devices to mimic actions the 787 will go through.
Boeing told me that they expect the fatigue testing to take about three years. Not bad. Too bad someone can’t earn any frequent flier miles for all those flights!