Airbus and Lufthansa will undertake a series of A380 route-proving flights next month, which will include the double-decker's inaugural trip to the USA, writes David Kaminski-Morrow.

A380 MSN007 - which is equipped with a 519-seat, three-class cabin - will leave Frankfurt Main airport on 17 March for New York Kennedy. It will then fly on to destinations including Hong Kong and Washington Dulles airport by 28 March, and close the series with a service to Munich.

The A380 function and reliability flights operated late last year by Airbus using MSN002 were effectively a closed shop, carrying a reduced passenger load of company and supplier staff for the certification effort. Lufthansa says next month's tests with MSN007 will operate with "around 500" passengers and enable the A380 to demonstrate for the first time its "operational maturity under realistic conditions".

The flights will enable personnel to conduct practical tests, including assessing systems such as the air conditioning, lighting, acoustics and in-flight entertainment as well as the functioning of the galley equipment.

Lufthansa will also carry out tests of the airport ground infrastructure used to service the A380 at its Frankfurt hub. Frankfurt Main was one of the airports used for compatibility trials during early tests of the aircraft.

"The airline intends to match the turnaround time of the new aircraft, from landing to take-off, with that of the much-smaller long-haul jets already in operation," says the carrier.

Lufthansa, which has previously provided cabin crew for A380 test flights, has 15 A380s on order, with the first due to arrive in 2009.

Source: Flight International