The Airbus A330-800 test and certification programme began on 6 November and will involve a single aircraft and up to 350h of flight-trials.
Type approval is expected in the third quarter of 2019.
Testing of the first A330-800 (MSN 1888) will piggy-back the much more extensive programme undertaken to approve the larger -900 variant. This comprised two instrumented aircraft and the first customer unit equipped with a furnished cabin flying 1,400h over 400 flights. European certification of the -900 was received on 26 September and deliveries to TAP Air Portugal are about to start.
Airbus says there is 99% commonality between two variants of the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000-powered A330neo family. The -800 is derived from the A330-200, with its key differences over the -900 being a 5m (16.3ft) shorter fuselage and taller fin.
“The shorter fuselage means that the engines are closer to both the front and the back of the aircraft,” Airbus’s head of development flight tests, Jean-Philippe Cottet. “From the front it will have a difference on the anemometry and we’ll have to check that. And from the back it will have an effect on the aircraft’s behaviour.
“We will also have to check the difference in the structural response of the aircraft during the flutter testing,” he adds.
The -800 test aircraft’s cabin is fitted with a medium level of flight-test equipment with a single engineer station seating two flight-test engineers. During its 4h 4min first flight the A330 reached an altitude of at least 30,000ft. Both the take-off and landing were operated with the fly-by-wire system in direct law, as is normal for Airbus first flights.
During the first sortie general handling qualities were explored in all three axes, and flutter pulse checks were completed along with a test of the cabin pressurisation system.
“Testing of the -800 prototype will mainly be dedicated to flight physics, handling qualities and performance,” says Cottet. “The target is to fly 300-350h for the -800 campaign.”
After an initial batch of 5-10 validation flights, the initial development phase will open the -800’s flight envelope with identification and performance flights involving stalls and flutter testing. The next phase will involve development testing to tune the flight-control laws and explore the handling qualities. There will also be certification tests undertaken including crosswind, autopilot and systems trials, along with minimum speed checks.
Certification is due in the third quarter of 2019, says A330neo chief engineer Francois Kubica.
The A330-800 will then be ready to enter service, but Kuwait Airways, which is currently designated as the first -800 customer, is not due to begin receiving its aircraft until the first half of 2020.