Airbus A350 XWB in Bolivia for High-Altitude Testing

 - January 9, 2014, 10:51 AM
A350 XWB MSN3 arrives in Cochabamba, Bolivia for high altitude testing. (Photo: Airbus)

The second A350 XWB flight-test aircraft, MSN3, has arrived in Bolivia to perform a series of tests at the high-altitude airfields of Cochabamba and La Paz. Cochabamba lies around 8,300 feet above sea level, and La Paz ranks as one of the world’s highest airports at 13,300 feet.

Flight test crews aim to demonstrate and validate the full functionality of engines, systems, materials as well as to assess the overall aircraft behavior under the extreme conditions.

Airbus plans a number of takeoffs with all engines operating and with simulated engine failures at each of the airfields to collect data on engine operating characteristics and validate the aircraft takeoff performance. It also plans to evaluate autopilot behavior during automatic landings and go-arounds.

Separately, Airbus last month performed the ultimate load test of the A350’s wing, applying loads up to 1.5 times higher than those the aircraft would ever encounter in its entire in-service life. At ultimate load, the A350 XWB wingtip deflection exceeds five meters (16.4 feet). Airbus performed the test on an A350 static test airframe built specifically to demonstrate structural integrity. Engineers monitor strains induced into the airframe in real time using more than 10,000 measurement channels. They then analyze the data recorded and correlated it to structural computer models used to design the airframe.

Since the A350 XWB’s first flight with MSN1 on June 14, crews have logged more than 800 flight test hours during close to 200 flights by both MSN1 and MSN3. Plans call for five A350 XWB test aircraft to accumulate around 2,500 flight hours. Airbus expects to win certification of the A350-900 from the European EASA and U.S. FAA airworthiness authorities by this year’s fourth quarter.