Nationals from three countries win the six seats on airliner's maiden flight, but manufacturer remains coy on date

Airbus remains tight-lipped on the timing of the A380's first flight as it reveals the aircraft will be operated by a six-strong French, German and Spanish crew.

The first flight, scheduled before the end of the first quarter, will be flown by an all-French flightdeck crew - Airbus chief test pilot Jacques Rosay and senior vice-president flight operations Claude Lelaie. Four flight-test engineers will be on board, one on the flightdeck and three at the stations in the main and upper deck cabins. They include Airbus flight-test director Fernando Alonso and engineers G‚rard Desbois, Manfred Birnfeld and Jacky Joye.

Airbus says the two pilots will share captaining of the first flight, with Rosay expected to handle the take-off and Lelaie the landing.

The first A380 is undergoing outside tests before being painted for the "reveal" ceremony in Toulouse on 18 January. Airbus has consistently declined to specify when the A380 will take to the air, although it is widely believed to have been targeting a date in February. Last month Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy indicated March was now a more realistic target.

For its first flight, the A380 will initially be operated with the fly-by-wire (FBW) controls in direct law as is usual with the FBW Airbuses, says Lelaie. "Generally on the first flight we open up the flight envelope in direct law and fly up to 350kt [648km/h], then decelerate to progressively introduce normal law," he says. "We check it is reacting normally and then accelerate to maximum speed and repeat at high altitude before switching back to direct law for landing."

The flight-test and certification programme for the Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered model will see four aircraft fly 2,100h and is due to last 13 months. For early test-flight stall tests, the crew will wear parachutes and the aircraft will be equipped with an escape chute leading to a jettisonable cargo door.


Source: Flight International