Boeing's 787 Dreamliner No. 2 landed safely today at Boeing Field in Seattle after a flight that lasted almost two hours, but the test flight did not go entirely smoothly.
A ham radio operator who monitored the chatter between the plane and Boeing's flight operations center and the air traffic control tower said the T-33 chase plane reported over the Olympic Peninsula that the tilt of the nose landing gear of the airplane didn't look right.
Part of the gear assembly "was tilted to the aft by 15 degrees," the radio operator heard the chase pilot report. The chase plane observer was also concerned about the alignment of the nose gear door with the tire.
Boeing confirmed this, and said also that the landing gear indicator lights provided conflicting data.
Test pilot Randy Neville abandoned the first planned approach into Boeing Field, then turned and flew around so the chase plane could have another look, according to the radio exchange.
Boeing in a statement said that during flight testing, "dialogue between the pilots, chase plane pilots, and engineers can sometimes be heard over the Air Traffic Control System and misinterpreted."
"It's important to remember that flight test programs are conducted to identify and solve issues as they arise," the statement said.
Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach said the ground-based flight test engineers analyzed the issue with the landing gear and resolved it while the plane was in the air.
"We fixed it and it landed safely," Leach said. "At no time during this flight was the aircraft or the pilots in danger."
When the jet landed at Boeing Field, aviation professionals watching were surprised to see that the main landing gear doors were left open on landing rather than stowed away and that the plane shut down at the end of the runway instead of taxiing around to the apron.
Fire trucks were on standby, said an aviation professional who watched the landing.
On the first flight of Dreamliner No. 1 a week ago, the landing gear doors were stowed for landing and the airplane taxied afterward to a ramp area close to a waiting crowd of media photogrpahers and reporters.
During the flight, according to the radio exchange overheard by the ham radio operator, the chase plane pilot reported that he was low on fuel.
No other chase plane pilot was immediately available and Dreamliner pilot Neville at one point suggested that the chase plane pilot return to Paine Field, jump in another chase plane and come back out. But they decided to land instead.
As Dreamliner No. 2 landed, the chase plane reported to the tower that it had "minimum fuel," a declaration that it was almost out of gas. However it was able to land safely just a few minutes after the Dreamliner.
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner No. 2 took off from Paine Field in Everett at approximately 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, a week after the first flight of Dreamliner No. 1, and landed two hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle.
Only two test pilots were aboard the jet, with Neville at the controls and Mike Carriker, who commanded last week's first flight, this time riding in the right seat as co-pilot.
Though the plane is painted in the colors of the first 787 customer, All Nippon Airways of Japan, this jet will not be delivered to ANA. The first three of the six flight test airplanes are considered too heavy and have been modified and remodified too much to be sold to an airline. They will be used only for test flights.