Boeing has completed loads calibration testing of the first P-8A Poseidon test aircraft two weeks ahead of schedule.

Loads calibration is one of the prerequisites for the US Navy flight clearance process. This ensures that test aircraft T-1 is ready for airworthiness testing, which will commence later this year.

During the tests, up to 80% of the highest expected flight loads were applied to the aircraft’s fuselage, horizontal stabilisers and vertical fin and wing structures.

Boeing P-8A structural development and certification director, Mark Magnuson said that technology had helped to speed up the process.

“One of the reasons we were able to complete the tests ahead of schedule is that the team incorporated some new technologies which enabled us to capture more accurate and more usable data faster. We also completed a number of independent reviews of the test plan prior to the start of testing, in order to reduce risk,” said Magnuson.

One of the new technologies, optical photogrammetry, entailed installing small video cameras on the P-8A’s leading and trailing edges and underneath the fuselage. The measurement system provided three-dimensional, real-time data.

The team now will restore T-1 to its flight configuration and perform additional systems tests prior to first flight.

The P-8A is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems and GE Aviation. The team currently is assembling and testing the first five P-8As.

The navy plans to purchase 108 P-8A long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft to replace its fleet of P-3Cs. Initial operational capability is slated for 2013.

By Daniel Garrun.