Successful test programme for Trent 900-powered variant draws to a close, providing much-needed fillip for Airbus

Reeling from the double blow of further production delays announced last month and last week's shock order cancellation by FedEx Express, Airbus is determined to send a positive message to the market by securing A380 type certification by mid-December.

Although the manufacturer considered deferring certification after the ultra-large airliner's service-entry was pushed back to October 2007, it has decided to press ahead, partly to scotch suggestions that it is facing deeper issues than the well-documented wiring installation problems that have stalled the production ramp-up.

"It would be a pity not to certificate the aircraft and release resources to do other things," says Airbus vice-president flight test Fernando Alonso.

"All the tests required for type-certification were completed at the end of October. The only outstanding task is route proving."

As of 3 November, the five A380 development aircraft - including MSN009, the first Engine Alliance GP7200-powered aircraft - had clocked up 2,358h over 745 flights. Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered aircraft MSN001, 002 (equipped with a fully furnished cabin) and 004 have completed the bulk of the flying, while MSN007, which will also have a full cabin and was originally due to operate the route-proving campaign, has flown just three times and remains in Hamburg undergoing outfitting and post-production wiring modifications.

Under European certification rules, the A380 must accumulate 300h of function and reliability testing representative of airline operations. Half of this has already been clocked up by MSN002 and the remaining hours will be achieved by a dedicated campaign due to begin on 13 November (see box).

These flights will carry 50-70 people, comprising Airbus test and training pilots, engineers and other staff, and airworthiness authority representatives.

After initial type certification, a handful of operational limitations will remain, including:

  • Landing gear extension limited to 220kt (400km/h). "We have an issue with main landing gear fairing doors that need to be reinforced," says Alonso.
  • Braking energy limited to 95MJ until the maximum energy (105MJ) rejected take-off test due to be performed with MSN001 next month. This will be one of the last tests to be performed because it is likely to result in minor airframe damage.
  • Category 1 autoland Cat 3B capability expected by early 2007.

Airbus A380 
© Airbus   

Four Trent 900-powered and one GP7200-powered (above) development aircraft have accumulated over 2,350h

Source: Flight International