Airbus is working hard to complete the A350 flight-test campaign, which it hopes to close by the end of August in preparation for formal European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) airworthiness approval in September. By early last week, the five A350 test aircraft had logged 2,189 hours during 516 flights that involved more than 1,360 take-off/landing cycles.
Principal remaining elements include the maximum-energy rejected take-off (Merto) demonstration and long-range, route-proving flights, according to Fernando Alonso, Airbus senior vice-president of flight and integration tests. Typically, Merto testing requires aircraft at maximum take-off weight to come to a complete halt from maximum V1 speed using 90-percent worn wheel brakes, no reverse thrust and no damage to the aircraft from any landing-gear fires that might break out.
“[Merto] involves a combination of weight and speed,” said Alonso, who expects the A350 test will be done at about 275 ton and at a speed of 160- to 170 kt. “We will set the [demonstration] speed just before brake release [when we know] the actual aircraft weight.” An earlier high-energy, rejected takeoff (not necessarily at maximum weight) was performed to clear the A350 for initial long-flight demonstrations.
Project test pilot Frank Chapman is organizing the route-proving campaign that will be conducted on A350 MSN 005. In early July, this aircraft had accumulated almost 36 flight hours in its first six flights since taking to the air on June 20.
The aircraft will undertake some 26 flights that will total some 200 hours flying that is representative of actual airline operations, including a series of Hong Kong-Singapore return flights separated by 90-minute turnarounds. MSN 005 is expected to visit Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and points in Asia and Europe.
Following EASA airworthiness approval, Airbus expects to retain A350 MSN 001 and 002 and to refurbish the remaining three test airframes for customers. Post type certification work includes testing related to the aircraft configuration for launch customer Qatar Airways.