Singapore Air Show

A350 Debut Steals the Singapore Show Limelight

 - February 10, 2014, 5:10 AM
A350 Flying at Singapore Airshow

The full international debut of Airbus’s A350XWB airliner will dominate both the static and flying displays on the first two days of the Singapore Airshow. The European airframer’s second flight test airplane–MSN3–arrived here over the weekend and flew a display rehearsal on Sunday afternoon over the Singapore Strait. It is due to depart at the end of Wednesday.

Carriers from the Asia Pacific region that have already ordered the aircraft include AirAsia X, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines. In all, Airbus has collected firm orders for 812 A350s from 39 customers.

The stop in Singapore actually marks the second time an A350 has appeared in the air at an international show. The first A350, MSN1, flew past President Francois Hollande on the final business day of the 2013 Paris Air Show, on June 17. But it was not available for ground inspection and so for the vast majority of industry visitors here this week, the Singapore appearance will be their first chance to take a close look at the new widebody.

The A350 on display here in Singapore–the second of five flying prototypes to fly–first took to the air on October 14. The first A350 (MSN1) took off last June 14. Together, they’ve undergone a test regime that has included identification and freeze of all flap and slat configurations, loads and aeroelastic testing and evaluation of handling characteristics and systems operation throughout the operational envelope.

Early last month MSN3 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 13,300feet. There, flight test crews demonstrated and validated the full functionality of engines, systems and materials as well as to assess overall aircraft behavior under extremeconditions.

From Bolivia, MSN3 flew to Fort de France, Martinique for engine hot tests at sea level, then made its way to Iqaluit, Canada, where it spent several days performing extreme cold weather tests before flying to Doha, Qatar, for service readiness checks en route to Singapore.

Plans call for the five A350 test aircraft to fly 2,500 hours before expected typecertification in the third quarter of 2014. It is due to enter service before year-end.

Crews have now logged 1,000 flight test hours during more than 200 flights by both MSN1 and MSN3. Fitted with heavy test instrumentation to carry out performance and systems evaluations in extreme conditions, MSN3 carries more than 400 kilometers of wiring and tons of test equipment. Plans call for MSN2 and MSN4 to fly “in the coming weeks.” Airbus plans to fit MSN2 and MSN5 with cabins and use the airplanes to carry out the early long flights and route proving flights later this year. The company plans to fit MSN4 with light flight test instrumentation calibrated to perform external noise and lightning tests, avionics development and certification testing. It also expects to use MSN4 to start training for first customer pilots and maintenance teams.

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 ft). Airbus performed the test on an A350 static test airframe built specifically to demonstrate structural integrity.