The first flight of an Engine Alliance-powered Airbus A380 is expected by the end of August, following the start of ground runs on the test aircraft last week.

Airbus says aircraft MSN009 has been handed over to the flight test division, which began ground-running the GP7200 engines on 14 August. The first start-up was particularly smokey as oil burned off that had accumulated while the engines were in prolonged storage. The GP7200 shipset had been "sitting around for 11 months", says Engine Alliance president Bruce Hughes.

Although Airbus will not give a precise date for the first flight, saying only that "it will be shortly - as soon as everything is ready for it", Hughes says the provisional window is 25-30 August. The first GP7200-powered A380 was originally expected to fly in November 2005 but, although the engines were delivered on time, issues with the nacelle and other parts slowed the programme.

A380 smoking
© Stéphane Beilliard / 

 The start-up was smokey as oil that had accumulated in the engines during prolonged storage burned off

A second GP7200-powered A380, MSN007, is set to join the certification effort for around two months from March 2007. This aircraft (Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered and due to carry out route-proving at the end of the year), may be switched "depending on Rolls-Royce's flight tests and that of the aircraft", says Hughes. "It's currently designated as the noise certification aircraft, but Airbus has the flexibility of changing the serial number of that aircraft depending on its production and certification plans," says Hughes, adding that route-proving for the GP7200-powered A380 is currently set for March-April 2007, "but that's pretty tentative".

Engine Alliance is still trying to reduce the weight of the installed engine and has set itself a target of saving 68kg (150lb). "This will be phased in on the early production engines by shipset 10, 11 or possibly 12. We will also be able to retrofit what we can in the early shipsets," says Hughes, who adds the reductions are mostly from revised frames and shafts. "We went back and found out we'd over-designed some of these parts," he says.

Source: Flight International