February 10, 2014
Credit: Airbus/A. Doumenjou
The Airbus A350 flight test program is going much better than expected, according to the company’s Senior Vice President Flight and Integration Tests Fernando Alonso. The two test aircraft flying are accumulating around 100 flight hours each per month. “In previous programs, we did around 50-55 hours per aircraft and month,” Alonso said.
Airbus has taken MSN3, the second test aircraft, to the Singapore Air Show where it will participate in the flying display for the first time. MSN1 and MSN3 logged a combined 1,025 flight hours and 505 cycles as of February 10. That puts the A350 close to half way through its test program which is aimed at 2,500 hours. Airbus plans to deliver the first aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2014 to Qatar Airways.
Most of the work (669 hours and 382 cycles) has been done by MSN1. The first A350 to fly is currently on the ground for several weeks for previously planned software and systems upgrades while MSN3 has done hot and high and cold weather trials in Bolivia and Canada. It made a stop in Doha for a presentation at Qatar Airways before coming to Singapore. In Doha, two Qatar Airways pilots flew the aircraft and two Singapore Airlines pilots have been allowed to fly the A350 just before the opening of the show. MSN3 will return to Toulouse on Thursday. The flight is planned to last 14.5 hours – the longest ever done by the aircraft. It is likely to be preceded by one of the shortest ever flights (not counting touch-and-gos) because the aircraft has to be repositioned from Changi airport to the air show tarmac, for which it will have to land at the adjacent military runway, Airbus Chief Test Pilot Peter Chandler tells Aviation Week.
Chandler was at the controls for the first flight and is one of two pilots in command who are allowed to fly the airshow displays.
According to Alonso, Airbus had built in some contingencies into the schedule in case some significant difficulties would be discovered, but there weren’t any. Because he expects a larger number of requests for late modifications, he has “no hope” however, that the certification and test program could be accelerated. On the other hand, Alonso is very confident that entry into service will not be delayed. “We have taken a lot of risk out of the program,” he says. Two more test aircraft, MSN2 and MSN4 are going to fly before the end of February. MSN2 will have the first full cabin installed. MSN5 is planned to fly in May.
All the configurations of the aircraft – flaps and slats settings for various flight phases amongst others – are now defined and frozen. Certification testing involving airworthiness authorities has begun.
Following the Bolivia and Canada trials, the A350 will undergo another round of extreme temperature tests in May, but this time it will use the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The hangar will be cooled down to temperatures of around -40 degrees Celsius and heated to reach +45 degrees Celsius. The hangar has been used by many previous programs including, most recently, the Boeing 787.