Simulation and tests
A “MASTER” REFERENCE
From the design of new aircraft to the support of its jetliners in operation, Airbus develops and utilises a full range of simulation and test tools that benefit from continuous innovation.
Advances in computing power and visualisation have led to the development of the digital mock-up (DMU), which can be used as a virtual computer-generated model of an aircraft and its systems. This tool is a key element of the new A350 XWB, with the DMU serving as the “master” reference for the entire team working on this next-generation jetliner.
The DMU helps speed up the aircraft’s development – including optimising the installation of systems and other hardware – providing access to all participants who work as a “virtual” team, no matter where they are located. Additionally, use application extends to the simulation and validation of industrial manufacturing process, facilitating the transition from the design and development phase to production.
Another activity is the Airbus-led CFMS Core Programme, which was established to develop advanced computer-based systems and processes to enhance the design of future aircraft. This research effort is evolving innovative computer-based simulation systems to increase the power of fluid mechanics design processes by up to 1 million times, leading to significantly reduced development lead times and enhanced product optimisation.
The CFM Core Programme’s goal is to increasingly replace the traditional use of physical wind tunnel-based methods – which require carefully-crafted scale models – with high-fidelity, computer-based simulation. As a result, the time-consuming process of model manufacture and testing in wind tunnels will be replaced by enhanced, sophisticated numerical simulation methods that can generate and manipulate data significantly faster than any of the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods available today.
This new computer-based technology also promises to decrease energy consumption and waste in the design process itself by reducing the number of physical test models used, lowering test facility costs, cutting the number of flight test hours, and requiring less rework in the early stages of product manufacture. In addition, its more efficient and powerful design processes also can lead to new environmental improvements for aircraft, as more effort can be focused on the development of eco-friendly products – including the adoption of novel technologies, and possibly new airframe configurations.
Ground-based flight simulators have become a valuable tool in preparing a new aircraft for their test and certification phases, and Airbus has taken this one step further with a new development simulator that is significantly reducing the time required to validate new cockpit concepts and innovations. Designated MOSART (MOdular Simulator for Airbus Research Tests), its design allows the simulator to be reconfigured to match the full range of aircraft configurations.
A key advantage is MOSART’s ability to evolve according to designers’ needs – integrating Airbus developments, along with prototype elements from partners and suppliers. MOSART was conceived to provide the best possible cockpit environment, functioning with changing elements such as aircraft performance, the air traffic control environment and weather conditions. The simulator’s flexibility is optimised with its ability for rapid changes in the number and configuration of display screens or control interfaces.
When an aircraft advances to the flight test phase, a new modular and reusable platform developed by Airbus is reducing the time and costs associated with onboard flight test equipment, allowing for more efficient analysis while airborne. The work on this generic flight test installation – designated GENETI – began in 2008, with its development team tasked with replacing existing flight test installations that are facing obsolescence, along with those customised at high expense to meet specific aircraft programme requirements.
Guided by lean thinking, the team took a low-cost approach to designing the universal GENETI platform, while retaining the installation’s functional, ergonomic design to fully address the needs of its users. The GENETI flight test engineer station, which is located in the test aircraft’s cabin, consists of only nine components – enabling onboard installation in a single day – and can be fully tested on the ground.
Initial test campaigns performed in South Africa and Mexico with single-aisle Airbus aircraft have demonstrated GENETI’s ability to reduce the development of flight test installations by as much as 50 per cent. A larger version was used for flight testing of the A350 XWB.
Airbus innovation in simulation and testing extends to the daily use of its aircraft by airlines and other operations around the world, and includes the development of simulation tools to enhance maintenance and support. Examples are Maintenance/Flight Training Device and virtual aircraft, which replicate aircraft systems with a high degree of realism, allowing trainees to practice troubleshooting, fault isolation, post-flight report consultations and other tasks at any time without having to mobilize an actual aircraft.