Airbus has “done really well with [A350-900] flight test [and] in the first phase has gathered a lot [of information],” according to executive vice-president and program head Didier Evrard. By the beginning of November, the first two A350-900 twin-aisle twinjets had logged more than 100 flights and over 500 hours of testing. As at October 21, MSN 001 had completed 77 flights, accruing 378 block hours, while MSN 003 (the second to fly) had achieved three flights in its first week of operations, accumulating 25 block hours, according to Airbus A350 experimental test pilot Hugues van der Stichel.
The manufacturer has allocated about 2,500 hours of flying to the A350 test campaign, with the first two flying aircraft–MSNs 001 and 003–each being heavily instrumented and earmarked for 800 and 600 flight-hours, respectively. The next two aircraft, currently expected to be MSNs 002 (configured with a furnished passenger cabin) and 004 in that order, should fly in February at the start of 400 flight-hour programs. Following in May is scheduled to be MSN 005, another aircraft equipped with passenger interior and which has a shorter 300 flight-hours duty.
Airbus is continuing work with the A350 static test airframe that last month was being prepared for the ultimate-load test, which should be complete by early 2014. Development aircraft MSN 002, the first to be fitted with a full airline cabin interior, is expected to be ready for flight testing in February.
MSNs 004 and 005 had joined the final-assembly line by the end of October, having been less difficult to complete because they will sport less flight-test equipment than initial aircraft. Fuselage join-up began November 4.
By October 21, MSN 001 had completed aero clean and landing configuration, and air brakes setting tests. Operations using normal control law had been cleared to FL430 and the aircraft had performed a first automatic landing on the fourth flight. Maximum torque braking had been demonstrated, as had landing-gear emergency free-fall lowering.
Demonstration of minimum takeoff (Vmu, minimum unstick) speed on the A350’s 57th flight in late September was an important milestone to confirm the optimum flap setting for takeoff and show that the aircraft is not stall-limited. The next significant step is a flutter-free demonstration that will see the A350 being flown at maximum operating speeds (Vmo) and Mach numbers (Mmo) at moderate to high altitudes. Another important exercise, according to Stichel, will be flight in icing conditions.
A five-hour real virtual test aboard Cabin 0, the A350 verification and validation platform, in Hamburg in July involved the embarkation of a two-man flight crew, eight cabin staff and 129 passengers for a simulated flight from the Canary Islands to Germany.