Airbus put the A330-200 Freighter through an intense test regime during its first flight earlier today, operating the aircraft up to its maximum speed and altitude and testing its revised nose landing gear arrangement.
"We flew the aircraft to 41,000ft [12,500m] and to the maximum speed of 330kt [610km/h]," says Airbus test pilot Philippe Perrin, who captained the first flight. "We also flew the aircraft down to its lowest speed - 'Alpha Max'."
Part of the reason to operate to the maximum altitude was to evaluate the sealing of the large maindeck cargo door, says Perrin: "The pressure held very well."
Alongside Perrin for the 3h 50min flight was co-pilot Martin Scheuermann and test-flight engineers Wolfgang Brueggemann, Stephane Vaux and Pascal Verneau.
Perrin says that the crew were keen to test the modified nose-gear arrangement, which incorporates an external blimp fairing to accommodate the lower leg attachment. The revised attachment is needed to ensure the aircraft sits level on the ground for loading.
"We wanted to check the operation of the new doors, which behaved very nicely," he says, adding that there were no noise or buffet issues with the fairing.
When it returned to land from its maiden sortie, the A330 flew two autoland approaches, including a late go-around and a touch-and-go, before making a full-stop landing.
Perrin says that during the A330-200F will be operated in "extreme flight configurations" during the 4-5 month flight-test programme. Part of the trials will be used to extend the A330's centre of gravity (CofG) by 3% over the passenger version, to improve flexibility when loading freight pallets of varying weights throughout the aircraft's maindeck cargo bay.
The 180h flight-test programme is due to be culminate in simultaneous European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration certification in March. First delivery to launch customer Etihad Airways will take place in August.