Sterling work is being done by a transnational Airbus team working on the design and wind tunnel testing of wings for the new A350 long-range aircraft.
With full industrial launch for the programme expected shortly, airlines have shown a strong interest in the A350 with commitments for more than 100 aircraft.
At the end of 2004, Airbus in the UK set up a multifunctional team to design and manufacture the composite wings. During the past year, the aerodynamics team and wind tunnel engineers have been working with their colleagues from other Airbus sites on refining the wing design.
Initial testing began in the low-speed wind tunnel at Filton, UK in March, followed by a series of tests in Germany, in the Bremen low-speed wind tunnel and the pressurised wind tunnel in Toulouse, France. Recently, a second round of tests was held at Filton and at the high-speed Aircraft Research Association's transonic wind tunnel in Bedford.
Rapid prototyping using stereolithography techniques has been employed to add modifications to the model.
The next step will be undertaking cryogenic tests in the pressurised wind tunnel in Cologne. In early 2006, tests will begin on a new 1/39th scale A350 model with high-grade steel wings and all wind tunnel testing should be completed by the summer of 2006.
With a new composite wing, a fuselage that uses aluminum lithium and composites, a new landing gear, a new cabin, that gives it up to 60 per cent advanced materials and up to 90 per cent new manufacturing part numbers, the introduction of new technologies will give the A350 an unassailable advantage when it comes to fuel consumption, seat-mile costs and reduced maintenance costs.