“It’s not a special process and we are following the same principles that we would for a small aircraft. The physics are the same,” said Dr. Norbert Lohl, certification director for the European Aviation Safety Agency, giving a somewhat modest assessment of the task his team has taken on to approve the world’s largest commercial airliner, the Airbus A380. In fact, the agency’s greatest challenge to date has been to take over a certification process that started under the auspices of the Joint Aviation Authorities without disrupting the continuing work with Airbus.
Part of the solution has been to recruit senior certification staff from France’s DGAC civil aviation authority, since this body had been at the forefront of the JAA process, which EASA took over last year. “In fact, the transfer has been seamless and it is actually better for us because the process is no longer voluntary,” Lohl told AIN. [The JAA is essentially a voluntary cooperation between national aviation authorities, but its requirements are not legally binding in member states–unlike EASA, which is backed by European Union law.–Ed.]
Since last year, the EASA team has been in detailed discussion with Airbus over the means of compliance for A380 certification, specifying factors such as the number of flight test hours, cycles and landings that will be required and how to demonstrate immunity from failure for the aircraft’s advanced fly-by-wire controls.
“We have now fully agreed the certification timetable and the means of compliance with Airbus and we believe it is realistic,” said Lohl. His team is also considering factors such as how the A380 will operate at airports (including runway weight issues), as well as wake turbulence considerations. It has also devised a means of compliance for emergency cabin evacuation.