Test aircraft MSN002 to fly four trips to 10 airports, but with few passengers aboard

The Airbus A380 will set off on its technical route-proving programme next week, operating to 10 different airports in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America over four trips.

The trials will begin from Toulouse on 13 November "to carry out function and reliability tests at key airports around the world", says Airbus. "This exercise is the last of the trials required for type certification, which is expected in mid-December. The aircraft has to make over 150 flight hours on a continuous typical airline schedule, performing in its normal operational environment."

Airbus says the aircraft will be operated by its flightcrews "with the participation of airworthiness authority pilots from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration".

Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380 MSN002 - the only A380 completed so far that is equipped with a full cabin - will be used for the test flights. Although the aircraft's cabin is equipped with 474 seats, few of these will be occupied because Airbus says the aircraft will not be operating with representative passenger loads. "The only passengers will be Airbus maintenance and support staff - around 70 on each flight," says Airbus.

The airframer had initially planned to run the A380's route proving in conjunction with customers using the second cabin-equipped A380 (MSN007), but this plan was dropped because of production delays to prevent certification slipping into 2007.

Each of the four flights will begin and end in Toulouse, with the first trip departing on 13 November. The airports to be visited include Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Vancouver. The last trip will be an around-the-world operation with legs over both poles.

A380 Route-proving programme

"The A380 will have to demonstrate that it can be turned around as per normal airline operations," says Airbus. It adds that tests will include "checks on standard aircraft maintenance and behaviour, as well as typical airport operations and compatibility. These will include monitoring functions such as bridge docking, cleaning and catering, refuelling and boarding procedures."

Meanwhile, the Engine Alliance GP7200 test aircraft MSN009 undertook hot and high tests in Addis Ababa last month where it successfully carried out a series of high-altitude tests from Bole International airport, which sits at 7,500ft (2,290m) above sea level. The aircraft then continued to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates for hot weather tests.

Source: Flight International