One of the four A350 XWBs currently involved in the programme took a brief time-out to join opening day ceremonies at this week’s ILA Berlin 2014 Air Show, and then departed for the continuation of its work. A fifth aircraft is being prepped to join the test and certification effort, with its maiden takeoff planned in the coming weeks.
The A350 XWB is living up to expectations as the developmental aircraft are being put through their paces, according to Wolfgang Absmeier, an Airbus experimental test pilot who has been fully involved in the A350 XWB’s flight test programme.
“One of the surprises with this ‘carbon airplane’ is that we’ve had no surprises,” Absmeier explained. As an example, he noted the critical flutter testing – to which every new aircraft is subjected, determining the dynamic aeroelasticity – was performed within one week for the A350 XWB, compared to six weeks for the A380.
With over 70 per cent of the A350 XWB’s weight-efficient airframe composed of advanced materials combining composites (53 per cent) titanium and modern aluminium alloys – the A350 XWB is setting new standards for commercial airliners.
Among the many flight programme milestones achieved to date are the validation of the advanced high-lift devices on the A350 XWB’s highly efficient wings, measurement of the aircraft’s noise footprint in the vicinity of airports, runway water injection trials, icing tests and high-altitude airport operations in Bolivia.
This activity is supported by extensive ground-based and flying testbed resources – ranging from the “iron bird” for systems integration to test rigs for the cabin, fuel circuits and the landing gear. More than 13,200 cumulative hours have been logged on these “zero test” means.