The Xtra that makes a difference: Airbus’ busy flight test campaign for the A350 XWB’s service entry this year

Much can happen in a year. Just look at Airbus’ A350 XWB flight test and certification programme as proof.

16 July 2014 Feature story

Airbus’ “Xtra” work is paying off as the five-aircraft test fleet’s activity remains on-track for this jetliner’s certification in the third quarter, with the first customer delivery – to Qatar Airways – before the end of 2014. 

Making its Farnborough Airshow debut this week, the A350 XWB’s high-profile appearance represents a pause in the busy schedule for one of the jetliners since the no. 1 aircraft’s first flight just over 12 months ago.  

In the year since then, the fleet of development jetliners has accumulated more than 2,200 total flight hours in over 500 flights.  “Since Day One, we’ve had an aircraft that impressed us with its maturity,” explained Fernando Alonso, Head of Airbus Flight & Integration Test Centre. “I really believe that the investment we made in performing up-stream testing as much as possible has paid off.”

Airbus’ advanced modelling and simulations enabled the company to carry out this fast-paced programme, Alonso said, allowing more testing to be conducted on the ground – in some cases before the aircraft performed its maiden takeoff – with the flying evaluations increasingly focused on validation.

Alonso explained that most of the certification tests have now been completed, leading to one of the flight-test campaign’s final steps: the A350 XWB’s upcoming route-proving tour, which will demonstrate the jetliner on typical airline missions.  The fifth A350 XWB – MSN005 – will carry out this “intensive” three-week campaign, visiting a variety of airports in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres while accumulating 180-200 flight hours. 

“We’re very close to the end now,” Alonso said of the flight-test campaign. “It has been an incredible journey!”

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