Airframe to be subjected to test programme equivalent to 60,000 flight cycles by 2008

Dresden-based IABG is preparing to receive the third Airbus A380 airframe for the fatigue-test programme, which will subject the structure to the equivalent of 60,000 flight cycles by 2008.

The wings and front, centre and rear fuselage subassemblies will be transported by barge from Hamburg up the river Elbe to Dresden - completing the final 7km (4 miles) of the journey by road - where they will be joined inside IABG's purpose-built hangar.

The test specimen is due to be delivered in September or October, says IABG Dresden aircraft structure tests regional office manager Klaus Woithe. Airbus production staff and tooling will be transferred from Toulouse to Dresden in October to assemble the airframe. "The test rig will also be used as the manufacturing jig," he says.

Fatigue testing is due to start in October 2005 with the aim of reaching 5,000 simulated flights by January 2006, a few months before the first A380 enters service with Singapore Airlines.

IABG's contract with Airbus calls for it to perform the equivalent of 900 flights a week, with the rig operating 24h a day.

A total of 47,500 cycles should be completed by the end of the 26-month test in 2008, which is calculated to be equivalent to 60,000 actual flights because a fatigue load enhancement factor of 1.1 is to be used. The structure will be inspected every 4,000 flights for damage. Each flight will comprise an average of 480 "load cases", and include pressurisation of the fuselage.

The test rig weighs around 1,000t and comprises 190 hydraulic jacks, 7,200 strain gauges and several hundred additional deflection, pressure and temperature sensors.

IABG has been responsible for the fatigue testing of all Airbus models since the A300 in 1972.

Source: Flight International