The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that one of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner test aircraft had to make an emergency landing this afternoon in Laredo, Texas, after the crew reported smoke in the cabin during a test flight. The crew of between 30 and 40 Boeing flight-test employees on the plane were forced to utilize the jet’s emergency slides to evacuate the aircraft. . Emergency crews on the ground responded and extinguished the remainder of flames inside the aircraft, with one minor injury reported.

WSJ notes that according to a person familiar with the matter, as the jet was flying at 1,000 feet during the approach to Laredo, the Dreamliner’s crew reported a fire, possibly in the plane’s rear electronics bay. Subsequently, the 787’s emergency auxiliary power unit, known as a ram air turbine, deployed as a result of at least a partial power failure. Some of the plane’s automated systems, including the auto-throttle and cockpit flight displays and electronics-assisted flight controls, were affected, this person said. The pilots also canceled their instrument flight plan and proceeded to land under visual flight rules, possibly because some the flight instruments were knocked out.

While Boeing has predictably declined comment regarding this incident, Supply Chain Matters can’t help but speculate that this is yet more disappointing news surrounding endless delays in the Dreamliner program.   The latest delay was announced in August involving an uncontrolled failure on one of the designated Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines on a test bed in England, along with other component related issues.  That delayed first customer ship to an anticipated Q1-2011.

The WSJ and other media are reporting that Rolls-Royce, who’s Trent 1000 engine was involved in last week’s mishap involving a Qantas Airways Ltd. Airbus A380 superjumbo jet in-flight failure, issued a statement saying the Airbus incident was unrelated to problems with the Dreamliner’s engine.

More news will certainly surround this breaking development so stay tuned to the Supply Chain Matters blog for further commentary.