Washington : The fully-loaded version of the first of the eight long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft Boeing is building for the Indian Navy has begun its official flight test programme.
The plane had first flown last September but without any equipment on board.
The test programme began with the first P-8I built for India as part of a contract awarded in January 2009 taking off from Boeing Field in Seattle at 9.15 a.m. Saturday and landing three hours and 49 minutes later after demonstrating flying qualities and handling characteristics.
The flight went as planned with all test objectives met, the St. Louis headquartered $32 billion Boeing Defence, Space & Security unit of the company said in a press release Wednesday.
During the coming months, Boeing test pilots will put the P-8I, a Next-Generation B-737-800 derivative, through its paces over a US Navy test range west of Neah Bay, Washington, and a joint US/Canadian test range in the Strait of Georgia, Boeing said.
"Today's flight is another on-time milestone for the programme," said Leland Wight, Boeing P-8I programme manager.
"We'll start out testing the P-8I's mission system, which includes its sensors and communication systems. The team then will transition to 'stores' tests during which the P-8I will carry inert weapon shapes under its wings to demonstrate that the aircraft is capable of carrying all the weapons the Indian Navy will use during regular missions."
The stores the P-8I will carry will have the identical shape and size of real weapons, including the Harpoon anti-ship missile, depth bombs and torpedoes.
"This is an important milestone for the programme and sets the stage for operational testing and weapons certification as we move closer to P-8I aircraft joining the Indian Navy," said Rear Admiral D.M Sudan, assistant chief of naval staff (Air).
The P-8I flight and weapons testing follows on the heels of similar testing for the US Navy's P-8A Poseidon, of which it is a variant.
To efficiently design and build the P-8I and the P-8A, the Boeing-led team is using a first-in-industry, in-line production process that draws on the company's Next-Generation B-737 production system.
Assembly is complete on the second P-8I aircraft for India and it will make its first flight in the coming weeks.
The Boeing-led team is on track to deliver the first aircraft to the Indian Navy in 2013, the company said.
The P-8I features open system architecture, advanced sensor and display technologies, and a worldwide base of suppliers, parts and support equipment. P-8I aircraft are built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation.