The amount of testing required for a brand new aircraft type is tremendous, and that's a good thing. Take a look at the Boeing 787, for example. It's the first commercial aircraft built primarily from composite materials instead of metal, and that means that the testing is likely to face even further scrutiny. This week, the 787 passed the always-enjoyable wing load test. That's a good sign.
The wing load test is a fun one. Basically, they take the airplane and bend its wings to an absolutely insane level. See that pic up top? If you're flying and you see your wings looking like that, you're probably going to need to change your underwear. But the good news is that the wings will still be intact. And you kind of need wings to keep flying.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actually has rules around this test. Airplanes are required to be able to withstand 150 percent of the maximum expected load for 4 seconds. In other words, think of the worst severe turbulence that's been encountered. It needs to withstand 50 percent more than that, and the 787 passed.
This wasn't nearly as dramatic as the 777 test back in 1995 which saw them continue putting pressure until the wing snapped at 154 percent. See for yourself:So the 787 has passed a crucial wing test, but I'll certainly be curious to see how the composites behave after years in service. They've done plenty of testing on that as well, but of course, they can only simulate years of service at this point.
For now, things are looking good.
[Photo via Boeing]