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Wind tunnel testing assists in the A350 XWB's development

Wind tunnel testing for the new A350 XWB is generating gigabytes of data each week as this new Airbus jetliner continues its development.

9 July 2008 Feature story

The A350 XWB wind tunnel testing campaign is generating more data than ever before for designers involved in the development of a new Airbus aircraft.

Gigabytes of data are being generated each week in the A350 XWB campaign, which then is analysed and validated before being passed on to colleagues in flight physics and engineering.

These tests utilise precisely-built scale models, and the evaluations involve test engineers, lab operation experts and wind tunnel specialists - all who are working on very tight deadlines. Among the European facilities employed for such testing is the F1 wind tunnel at the Onera (l'Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales) French aerospace laboratory in Le Fauga, near Toulouse.

The amount of instrumentation and sensors has been increased so that the wind tunnel models can perform multiple tests. With better use of facilities, it is now possible to gather data equal to weeks' worth of computations in just one day.

Wind tunnel testing can simulate complex flight configurations, such as stalling and buffet analyses, as well as various aircraft configurations with the landing gear extended and the flight controls at different settings. Such evaluations are not possible with computers alone, as their use is not practical due to present day computing resources.

The scale models can take up to six months to create and their geometry is accurate to percentages of a millimetre, however changes to working practices have meant that fewer need to be built, so there is more focus on the actual testing.

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