SINGAPORE: A350 flight test pace "quite remarkable” - Airbus

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The high availability rate of the Airbus A350 XWB flight-test fleet has enabled the airframer to de-risk the flight-test programme as it heads towards its summer 2014 certification target date on schedule.

The flight-test programme, which currently comprises two A350s, has recently passed the 1,000h mark in a 2,500h flight-test programme. Two more test aircraft join the fleet this month, and a fifth in May.

The flight rate achieved so far has been “quite remarkable”, says Fernando Alonso, senior vice president flight and integration tests. “It has been way, way beyond our expectations from experience with previous test programmes.

“On the A350 we have been routinely flying at about 100h per aircraft per month. On average we had previously flown 50-55h per aircraft per month,” said Alonso at the Singapore air show, where the A350 is making its public debut. “We’re going twice as fast as we have before.”

Alonso attributes the smooth test effort to the high availability of the A350s. “We have seen from the very beginning a very robust and mature airplane,” he says.

“We have achieved this because of the extremely good preparation of all the teams. The other things that have contributed has been the knowledge that the flight-test teams have of the aircraft and systems because of their involvement, and the upstream equipment testing at the suppliers and integration testing.”

Alonso views the good progress of the flight-test programme as “taking away risk” in the schedule rather than creating a buffer. “As usual, at the end there will be a big rush because the modifications and equipment for the certification come right at the end. The advantage is that we will reach that stage in a very comfortable situation in terms of maturity,” he says.

Airbus is working towards certification of the initial A350-900 in the third quarter, with first deliveries to launch customer Qatar Airways scheduled before the end of the year.

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