Singapore Air Show

Airbus Continues Flight Tests on Several Variants

 - February 2, 2018, 6:00 AM
Airbus brought this Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97-powered A350-1000 to display at this year’s Singapore Airshow.

On static display until February 8, the Airbus A350-1000 is on a three-week, 30,000-nm (55,500-km) Asia-Pacific and Middle East demonstration tour. This second variant of the large twin-aisle twinjet received European and U.S. certification in late November and this example, manufacturer's serial number (MSN) 065 and one of three flight-test machines, is configured with 40 business-, 36 economy-plus-, and 219 "comfort" economy-class seats.  

Alongside maiden flights for the re-engined A330neo (for New Engine Option) and A340BLADE laminar-flow demonstrator, recent test flying at Airbus Commercial Aircraft (Stand J23, Static Display CD17) has focused mainly on the A320neo, with the A319neo smallest variant expected to remain in certification testing until 2019.

Airbus Flight and Integration Test Centre pilots and engineers in Toulouse are involved with 15 development aircraft, including some yet to fly, such as the A330-800neo and BelugaXL very-large transporter.  

A320neo—Airbus has dropped plans for a second A319neo flight-test airframe and will not assign its identity—MSN 6620—to a customer airframe. First A319neo MSN 6464 is in its eleventh month of CFM Leap-1A24 testing with engines that will be switched for Pratt & Whitney (P&W) PW1124G-JM geared-turbofan (GTF) units "by [the] second half of 2018," the manufacturer told AIN.

The A319neo is the only variant awaiting airworthiness certification for both engine designs, while Chinese Leap-1A engine certification is among other "open" items.

Initial A320neo MSN6101 remains involved in PW1100G-JM "maturity" testing and continuous-airworthiness flying. Category III automatic-landing development with A321neos MSN 6673 and MSN 7877 is expected to continue until the middle of this year.

A330neo—With two prototypes flying, and the first-production machine assembled and set to fly during May and June (with the third flight-test aircraft close behind), the A330-900 is expected to receive formal European and U.S. airworthiness approval in mid-year. The 1,100 flight-hour test program is being supplemented by a further 300 hours devoted to the smaller A330-800.

By late January, the two Rolls-Royce Trent 7000-powered A330-900neos had logged 290 flight hours in more than 80 flights, said Airbus, which reported no surprises from the variant that first flew last October. Initial testing was completed with "aircraft behavior currently in line with predictions." 

During cold-weather development flying, which Airbus expects to finish before second-phase testing is completed by the end of February, A330-900 prototype MSN 1795 has been equipped with ice shapes to compromise aerodynamics for aircraft-handling exploration.

MSN 1795 sports a tail-bumper for the velocity minimum unstick (Vmu) demonstration, while second prototype MSN 1813's engines have primary and secondary gas flow pressure taps (or "rakes"), allowing comparison of installed thrust with ground-testing power. 

A340—The A340BLADE (for Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe) program using A340-300 prototype MSN001 modified with natural laminar-flow outer-wings should resume by early April. The 150-flight-hour trial, which aims to reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption significantly, is part of Europe's Clean Sky research into cutting aircraft CO2, gas, and noise emissions.

The first round of testing, conducted between September and December last year, yielded encouraging results. "With limited analysis, we are very satisfied with observed [performance] meeting—and sometimes exceeding—expectations," said Airbus flight-test engineer Philippe Seve. 

Dubbed Europe's largest-ever flight-test demonstrator, the twin-aisle quadjet has shown "satisfactory handling qualities and flaw-free system behavior." Following extensive preparation and redundancy precautions, flight-test instrumentation was "very mature from first flight."

Second-phase flights incorporating "[aerodynamic] imperfections" are intended to "extensively test and characterize 'laminarity' robustness in representative operational conditions" and will continue until an undetermined date.

A350 – European and U.S. certification for the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97-powered A350-1000 in November followed less than 12 months of flight-testing, during which the three airplanes (MSNs 0059, 0065 and 0071) logged 1,600+ flight hours. This includes 150 FH replicating an airline environment to confirm readiness for entry into service with launch operator Qatar Airways.

Airbus has confirmed experiments with different A350 winglets that remain a development study and has set aside consideration of a longer "A350-2000" in anticipation of enhanced engine technology becoming accessible. Since completing planned tests, MSN0071 has been transferred to Airbus Finkenwerder for refurbishing, ahead of customer delivery.

BelugaXL—The first structurally complete BelugaXL very-large transporter, of five to be built, was rolled out in Toulouse last month and is expected to fly in this year's third quarter. Flight will be preceded by a months-long test program, supported by bench tests on flight simulators and in laboratories, including full-scale simulated flight-loading of joints between the new upper bubble and A330 lower fuselage.

A380plus—Flight-testing for a mooted A380plus enhanced variant, for which a development study was revealed last year, will not require protracted trials, according to the airframer. A relatively short two-aircraft campaign will assess handling qualities and performance improvement.