July 11, 2012
FARNBOROUGH-Airbus plans to confirm the A350’s first flight by the end of October, a decision that will coincide with delivery of the wing for MSN1, the first flight test aircraft.
The wing has been a concern for Airbus in recent weeks, with delays in the automatic drilling process forcing the airframer to defer the wing for the fatigue test aircraft by about four weeks.
A350 Program Head Didier Evrard says Airbus hopes to be able to mitigate that development and recoup some time with the help of a physical mock-up in Bremen, Germany, that will help accelerate the learning curve in production and the equipping process.
Five wings are being built in parallel, and the improvements will apply to all of them. Evrard now expects the wing for the fatigue test aircraft, which has been in final assembly since April, to arrive at the end of August.
Fuselage Section 11/14 for MSN1 will come to Toulouse from the plant in St. Nazaire, France, “in the coming days,” says Evrard; the rest of the fuselage is expected at the end of September.
Airbus still plans for the first A350-900 to fly before mid-2013.
By the time of entry into service, about 20 aircraft will be “in various stages of completion,” Evrard says. The flight test campaign will require four aircraft plus a fifth for route proving.
Evrard also says detailed load calculation has started on the redesigned A350-1000. “We are going to do what we decided a year ago.” Airbus is increasing the maximum takeoff weight from 298 to 308 tons and payload up by four tons. Engine thrust will be increased from 93,000 to 97,000 lb. Final assembly is planned to start in mid-2015, and service entry will follow in mid-2017. Evrard notes that because the aircraft is a stretched variant there is much less risk involved in future development, compared with the -900.
Because of the design changes, Airbus has delayed the A350-1000’s entry into service by about two years.