Alaska ‘winter season’ brings together Boeing 777X and KC-390

New aircraft undergo ‘Cold Soak’, flight trials in extreme cold weather in Fairbanks

A region where temperatures reach -38ºC with a thermal sensation of -48ºC would be one of the last places in the world to attract anyone, but it is in Fairbanks, Alaska, that two new aircraft are at the moment, the Boeing 777X and Embraer KC-390.

But what are the two jets doing in such an inhospitable place? The so-called “Cold Soak” tests, part of the certification process and which evaluate the operation of systems and equipment in extreme cold.

Boeing chose the 777-9 registration N779XZ , the fourth test plane of the world’s largest twin-engine passenger aircraft, for the mission. Since the beginning of the week, the planemaker has been evaluating situations such as the functioning of moving parts and lubricants at very low temperatures.

Among the main tests is to activate the GE9X engines after 24 hours off, as well as the use of APU and reversers on snow.

Embraer, located in a country that barely reaches negative temperatures, sent one of the KC-390s belonging to the Brazilian Air Force and which has been in exercises in North America since December. To reach Fairbanks, the multi-mission jet took its longest flight, 6 hours and 28 minutes, from Moses Lake Airport in Washington.

Boeing 777X WH004 aircraft (Photo: Liz Wolter/Boejng)

Like Boeing, the Brazilian airframer verified the functionality of several systems, such as avionics, electric, hydraulic, flight controls, fuel, engines, Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and radar.

Competitor of the C-130 Hercules turboprop, the Millennium has been ordered by Brazil (28 planes), Portugal (five units) and Hungary (two units) so far.

Canada trip canceled

Another aircraft in development, the Chinese C919 jet, should have gone to Canada days ago to conduct natural ice trials in partnership with the International Test Pilots School (ITPS), but the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

Now, aircraft manufacturer COMAC expects to resume these tests in the fall when there will be another opportunity. In December, the C919 performed low-temperature exercises in Mongolia, where it flew under -35ºC. The Chinese company plans to put the aircraft into service later this year.

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