By Max Kingsley-Jones in Abu Dhabi

Manufacturer targets 4 September for start of  'early long flight' test programme

Airbus is aiming to undertake the first flight of an A380 with a full load of passengers at the beginning of next month, when it launches the early long flights (ELF) test programme for the ultra-large aircraft.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, where the A380 was last week undertaking a hot-weather test campaign, Airbus flight-test engineer Jacky Joye told Flight International that Airbus has set a target date for the first flight with a full load of passengers: "The first ELF flight is due to take place on 4 September," he said.

The ELF programme will be flown by the third A380 flight-test aircraft (MSN002), which is equipped with a fully furnished, 474-seat three-class test cabin. This aircraft was recently used to complete the external noise trials in Tarbes, France. A second cabin-equipped A380 (MSN007) will undertake the 300h of route-proving required for type certification towards the end of the year, in conjunction with Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

A380 in-flight computers W445 
One of the premium cabins onboard MSN002 during May's cabin virtual first flight test in Finkenwerder

The ELF test programme will comprise four flights to test the cabin in airline operating conditions, said Joye. "We had issues with the cabin on the A340-300 after it entered service, so we introduced the ELF tests with the A340-600," he added. The programme enables early feedback on any potential problems with the cabin ahead of the route-proving programme.

Four ELF flights will be performed from Toulouse - 7h, 10h, 12h and 15h - one a night flight to cover all types of conditions. Around 300 of the passengers will be Airbus staff, and the remainder will be "other guests", says Airbus.

Meanwhile, the Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380 MSN004 spent last week in the emirate of Abu Dhabi undergoing hot-weather tests in temperatures of around 40°C (104°F). The aircraft was adorned in partial Etihad Airways colours for a public relations event at the airline's base at Abu Dhabi international airport, ahead of the seven-day test programme that was flown from Al Ain airfield, north of the city of Abu Dhabi.

"We are testing all the aircraft systems in hot conditions and focusing on evaluating the performance of the engines. We're making sure they deliver the required thrust and measuring exhaust gas temperatures," said Joye. "Tests involve simulating an engine failure to keep the aircraft at lower, warmer altitudes for a longer period while we take measurements."

■ Weather permitting, A380 MSN001 was late last week due to undertake a high-energy rejected take-off test at the Istres airfield in southern France.

Source: Flight International