Airbus has expanded the A380's flight envelope to an altitude of 43,000ft (13,100m) and a speed of Mach 0.89 during the initial phase of flight testing. The first series of stalls has been completed, says senior vice-president flight operations Claude Lelaie, adding that recovery was straightforward and benign, and "there was no tendency to drop [a wing] at all".

Lelaie also says that during normal manoeuvring "there was almost no buffet with slats and flaps deflected". Overall handling qualities appear to be sound and Airbus "already has a very good feeling about the flight controls", he adds. "We are making some minor tuning in the [flight-control software] programs, but at flight four or five we were doing rolling manoeuvres with the stick fully back at maximum angle of attack [19°]."

As well as envelope expansion, the first phase includes aircraft configuration and "configuration optimisation" tests embracing three-engined climb performance, speed calibration and flutter up to maximum dive velocity. The second phase includes handling qualities, further flight performance work, braking/anti-skid, autopilot, autoland, avionics, engines, nacelle and cabin noise evaluations.

Meanwhile, Airbus hopes to reduce the volume of overall test work by using the A340 engine testbed to conduct the Trent 900 natural icing portion of the certification programme.

Source: Flight International