Once Airbus begins flight testing of the A350 twin-widebody – due to start late next year -- it may try to take advantage of a split-based operational set-up it is using for the first time on the A400M military airlifter.
Testing of the A400M is centered at two facilities: Airbus’s Seville site, where the aircraft is built, and the company’s home in Toulouse. When the dual-site setup was first chosen, it was to done to meet Europe’s convoluted costshare/workshare balancing rules on military programs, rather than for operational reasons.
The arrangement was initially seen as burdensome and required Airbus to put in place additional telemetry capacity and split the test workforce. But with A400M flight testing well underway, Airbus officials actually feel there have been benefits from having the two sites, giving them greater flexibility in where they use the assets and some ability to work around weather conditions.
With the infrastructure now in place and paid for, Airbus officials believe there may be benefit of having the A350 also use a split-base operation during its development period. Although the bulk of A350 flight testing will remain concentrated at Toulouse, Fernando Alonso, the head of flight test operations at Airbus says one of the five flight test aircraft could spend some time in Seville for a few months.
With Airbus having already compressed A350 flight testing to 12 months from the originally scheduled 15, and effectively no margin left in the program, any ability to avoid schedule delays during the test period will likely prove vital.