Magazine #04

A350 XWB Magazine #04:
“Flight test campaign -
Full speed ahead! ”

Ever since MSN001 made its maiden voyage in June, the flight test department has been busy, not just with that aircraft but also MSN003, the second A350 XWB to fly.

In addition, the programme is preparing the other three test aircraft for their entry into the flight test campaign.

In Issue #4 we give you an insight into the flight test campaign and the department in charge. We'll take you inside the home of the flight test department – the building nicknamed the ‘Abreuvoir' – to meet the pilots, flight test engineers, test equipment teams, mechanics, and other people who work there. We also have exclusive video coverage of two critical tests: VMU and Flutter.

So join us and learn how the ‘Abreuvoir' got its name, why MSN003 is the second test aircraft, and how and why the VMU and Flutter tests are performed.

“Full speed ahead!”

Patrick du Ché, head of Development Flight Tests, said about the flight test campaign.


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A350 XWB MSN003
Meet the First Flight test crew

On 14 October, four months to the day after MSN001 made its maiden voyage, the second flight test aircraft, MSN003, made its own maiden voyage.

Meet the A350 XWB MSN003 First Flight Test Crew


MSN003 featured a six-person crew: two pilots and four engineers. We recently met with them to get to know the men behind the orange suits.

Frank Chapman: Lead flight test pilot

Frank Chapman

In another age, Frank Chapman might have been in ‘dog fights’ as a World War I flying ace. Even now, as a flight test pilot for Airbus, he flies vintage aircraft for a UK aviation museum at six or seven air shows each year.

And he has helped friends and colleagues build a replica of the 1912 Morane monoplane that Roland Garros flew across the Mediterranean Sea in 1913.

Originally from London, England, Frank’s family had a friend who was a glider pilot. When Frank was 14, he went for his first glider ride and, at age 16, he performed his first solo glider flight.

By then, he was convinced that he wanted to be a pilot and studied engineering science at Oxford University. After receiving his degree, he joined the Royal Air Force, where he flew Harriers and Phantoms.

Wanting to become a test pilot, he attended the test pilot academy EPNER in Istres, France. After graduation, he returned to the RAF and worked as an experimental test pilot, specialising in head-up display, electro-optics and helmet-mounted display systems.


He also worked on the development of the F16 fighter jet for the US Air Force.

Leaving the RAF in 1997, Frank became a commercial airline pilot. He joined Airbus in 2004 and has worked extensively as an experimental test pilot for the A380 and A330 MRTT programmes.

One of the project test pilots for the A350 XWB programme, Frank has been deeply involved in developing the cockpit display and layout.

“You can feel the wind in your hair”, he said of the Morane test flights. “It’s a type of flying that’s so different than what we do today.”


Thierry Bourges: Experimental flight test pilot


Thierry Bourges really loves flying. It’s all he can ever remember wanting to do and when he gets home after performing his ‘day job’ as an Airbus flight test pilot, he’s working on building his own aircraft.

Growing up in Le Plessis Robinson, outside of Paris, France, Thierry knew he wanted to be a pilot. But not just any type of pilot: “I wanted to be a Navy pilot – I wanted to be a Navy pilot – I wanted to take-off from and land on ships” His dream came true and he began his aviation career as a Navy fighter pilot in 1978 and served in operational duty on board aircraft carrier vessels.

In 1990, he joined Air France as an airline pilot where he remained until 2001, when he joined Airbus as a test pilot at the Hamburg Airbus Delivery Centre.

In 2004, he was assigned to Airbus’ Toulouse Flight Test Department. He has flown all Airbus aircraft types and has been active in the A380 flight test campaign.

This isn’t Thierry’s first ‘first flight’ – he also piloted the first A321 equipped with sharklets – but he feels privileged and honoured to be "a small part of this big adventure."

He doesn’t feel any added pressure just because it’s a first flight. “This is what we’re trained to do – this is what the job is all about.”

Thierry Bourges

With so many people working to bring this aircraft – and the entire A350 XWB programme – to fruition, Thierry is grateful for all of the efforts put in by the large chain of people behind the scenes.

“We each have something to bring,”, he said. “Everyone in Airbus is a part of this European success and may feel proud.”

“I wanted to be a Navy pilot – I wanted to take-off from and land on ships”


Gérard Maisonneuve: Test flight engineer

Gérard Maisonneuve

As the test flight engineer for MSN003, Gérard has been responsible for the aircraft since it left the final assembly line in Toulouse. He’s also been in charge of developing the test configuration for the first flight and he’ll be the third man in the cockpit during test flights.

It’s a long way from when he was a little boy outside of Lyon, France, listening for military jets overhead.

“There’s a French Air Force technical base close to my childhood home, and when I would hear the jets, I would go chasing after them to see which ones they were.”

Knowing that he wanted to be involved with flying, he eventually joined the Air Force, initially as a ground mechanic. Later, he passed the flight engineer test and spent 10 years as a flight engineer for C-130 transport aircraft.

“It was during this period that he went on many humanitarian operations ‘all over the world,’”

In 1999, he went to the EPNER academy for flight test engineering in Istres and went on to work as a test flight engineer in Cazaux Centre d’Essais en Vol, a flight test centre for the French Direction Générale de l’Armement.


In 2004, he joined Airbus’ flight test division, where he has worked on all Airbus family aircraft and has been involved in the development tests and, more particularly, in charge of A380 MSN002 (first cabin prototype) and A400M MSN003.

Highly experienced but joining the A350 XWB programme quite recently, Gérard thanks his fellow test flight engineer, Ludovic Girard, for helping to bring him up to speed.

“We’re going to have a busy year ahead of us”


Tuan Do: Project flight test engineer


Born in Paris, France, Tuan Do travelled the world as a child thanks to his father’s career working for a leading jet engine manufacturer. So perhaps it’s no surprise that he was taken by the legend of Icarus, the young man who dreamed to fly.

“Adding the extra dimension of flight to our existence is something that has always fascinated me”

He obtained a degree in mechanic and aeronautical engineering from the Laval University in Quebec, Canada and then the Ecole Nationale des Arts et Métiers in France.

He began his aerospace career in 1998 as a fuel systems engineer at Airbus UK in Filton, working on the A340-600 and A380.

He transferred in 2001 to the Flight Test department to work as a specialist engineer for fuel systems and engines.

In 2005, he graduated from the EPNER flight test school as a flight test engineer and worked until 2008 in the production flight test department, flying on the A320, A330 and A340 aircraft.

Tuan Do

“Being a flight test engineer lets me do two wonderful things.”, he said. “First, I get to fly and second, I get to see the aircraft from a global standpoint and dig deeply into all of its technical aspects.”

He transferred to the development flight test department in 2008, working as a flight test engineer on engines and fuel systems on all Airbus programmes.

Since 2010, he has been the project flight test engineer for the A350XWB programme. During the first flight, Tuan was responsible for monitoring engine and systems performance.

“To do what I do is a dream come true.”


Robert Lignée: Flight test engineer

Robert Lignée

Born in Montpellier, France, Robert Lignée spent much of his youth travelling the globe thanks to his father being in the French military.

“It was a great time. I got to see exotic places with sun and sea and I received a wonderful education.”

Robert graduated from Ensica University in Toulouse with a degree in aeronautical engineering. “I always wanted to make, to build aircraft”, he said. After military service in Africa, he joined Airbus as a ground engineer in the flight test acceptance department in 1982.

At Airbus, he went to EPNER academy for flight test engineering in Istres. “Being a flight engineer,” he said, “allows me to have a true hand-on experience with our aircraft.”

He spent some years as flight test engineer in the Airbus Acceptance Department, performing final flight tests on aircraft before they are delivered to airlines. In 1991, he moved to Development Flight Test before the first flight of the A340-300. He has worked since then for Development, mainly in the domains of Performance and Braking and Steering Systems.

Even though this isn’t his first ‘first flight,’ he said, “There’s always pressure when you perform a first flight.”


For the first flight of MSN003, Robert was focussed on performance and systems of the landing gear. “We have a great team here, not just the test flight crew, but everyone involved with this aircraft and with this programme”, he said. “I feel responsible to help complete the work they've done, to help finish this artistic enterprise.”

“We have a great team here, not just the test flight crew, but everyone involved with this aircraft and with this programme”


Stéphane Vaux: Flight test engineer


A native of Toulouse, France, Stéphane Vaux credits Airbus legend Fernando Alonso for becoming what he is today: a flight test engineer.

“I learned so much from him,” stéphane said.”He was my mentor and he developed the passion that I now have for flight.”

When he was younger, Stéphane wanted to be a professional musician. He played guitar and joined several bands, but his big break never came his way, so he went to university and received a degree in computer science.

He started at Airbus in 1989 in the Design Office, then spent four years in Hamburg, Germany as a ground engineer specialising in handling qualities and flight control systems. It was there where he met Fernando and his love of flight came to life.

He joined the flight test department in 1997 and became a flight test engineer in 2001. He has been involved since then in the development tests of all Airbus aircraft types.

Stéphane has worked on the development and certification of the A330-200 freighter version from its first flight and was also in charge of the development and certification flight test campaign of the ‘Steep Approach’ operation for the A318.

Stéphane Vaux

He joined the A350 XWB programme in 2010 and during the first flight of MSN003 he was responsible for monitoring handling qualities, flight controls, and aero-elasticity and loads.

“To do this job you must be passionate about what you do. You have to like and believe in your product”, he said. “And you have to love flying.” And Stéphane is now someone who loves to fly.

“To do this job you must be passionate about what you do. You have to like and believe in your product”


Now there are two: MSN003 takes its first flight


MSN001, the first A350 XWB to fly, has company.

Its sister aircraft, MSN003 made its successful maiden voyage on 14 October, taking off and landing at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in south-western France. The flight took place exactly four months to the day after MSN001 made its maiden voyage.

Shortly after 9AM

MSN003 First Flight at 9AM

Under a foggy sky, the flight crew – pilots Frank Chapman and Thierry Bourges, test flight engineer Gérard Maisonneuve, and three flight test engineers, Tuan Do, Robert Lignée and Stéphane Vaux – emerged from building M81, the home of the flight test department. Smiling broadly, they shook hands with the men and women of the ground crew and flight test installation teams and then boarded MSN003.

Frank, Thierry and Gérard settled into the cockpit, watched over by their mascot, a stuffed Pumbaa, the warthog from the “Lion King”. Quiet and focussed, they reviewed the instrumentation panel, tested the radio and oxygen system.


At 9:20

MSN003 First Flight at 9:20

The auxiliary power unit came on, supplying air conditioning. Meanwhile, in the cabin, surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of cables, were Tuan, Robert and Stéphane.

Like their colleagues in the cockpit, they mirrored the weather: cool and calm.

Pushed by a ground transportation unit, MSN003 was then moved outside of a maintenance hangar when...


At 9:30

MSN003 First Flight at 9:30

The engines were powered on. Mere seconds later, MSN001 could be seen lifting off into the sky. The ground crew and flight installation teams watched as the pilots activated the wing flaps, elevators, and vertical tail plane. Then, MSN003 taxied toward the runway with the spectators rushing to get a good view of the take-off.


At 9:54

MSN003 First Flight at 9:54

With the sun slowly burning off the fog and Thierry at the controls, MSN003 made its oh-so-quiet way down the runway, lifted off toward the southeast, and joined its sister aircraft in flight.


Five hours later...

MSN003 First Flight

After flying over much of southern France and the Bay of Biscayne, MSN003 made a picture-perfect landing with Frank at the controls and taxied back to the M81 building.

Peter Chandler, lead pilot on MSN001, and Patrick du Ché, head of Development Flight Tests, rushed up the stairway to greet their colleagues.

In the cabin door window, who did they see smiling back at them? Pumbaa.


Moments later, the crew – with big smiles on their faces – exited the cabin where they were met not only by Peter and Patrick but by many other colleagues as well as video and photography crews there to capture the occasion.

Frank said, “It handled just as expected – it’s so similar to MSN001.” Thierry enthused, “It was excellent - no problems at all”. And Tuan said, “This was a good day and I’m looking forward to a lot more of them.”

At the end of this busy day, the A350 XWB team had accomplished their goal: Now there are two A350 XWBs in the air”

“It handled just as expected – it’s so similar to MSN001.”

“This was a good day and I’m looking forward to a lot more of them.”


En route for Certification

Programme update, Flutter and VMU tests.


A350 XWB flight test campaign

Patrick du Ché is the head of development flight tests and is also responsible for the development of the A350 XWB flight test campaign.

“We’ve prepared very deeply for this flight test campaign and now it’s paying off”,he said “Full speed ahead!”. With MSN003 making its maiden voyage on 14 October – exactly four months after MSN001 made its maiden voyage – there are now two test aircraft in the A350 XWB programme. In the coming months, they will be joined by three more A350 XWB test aircraft and together they will fly some 2,500 hours up to type certification.

Patrick recently gave an update on the status of each test aircraft and of the certification programme in general. So far three have been a few suprising during the testing. “But that’s normal”, he said. “We want to find all of the issues now, not after we’ve delivered the aircraft to our customers.”


Since its maiden flight on 14 June, MSN001 has flow some 330 flight test hours in almost 70 flights. We have continued to open the flight envelope and there's a lot to be proud of. We've frozen the aerodynamic configuration - the configuration we are using when cruising in flight - as well as the landing and take-off configurations and we have performed many system tests.

But we still have a lot to do.

This is the first test aircraft with a cabin. MSN002 should join the fleet in early 2014 and then we’ll start carrying passengers and performing tests of the cabin and all of the cabin systems. And if you’re wondering why MSN002 is the third test aircraft, thanks to advancements in on-ground cabin testing, we didn’t need it before MSN003. So we built MSN003 earlier than planned, but kept the same MSN numbers.

This is going to be a very important aircraft for us over the next months. MSN003 - just like MSN001 - has no cabin but is equipped with heavy flight test installation and is destined for performance measurements, engine tests, high altitude tests, hot and cold weather campaigns, and more.

We'll be taking it to places where's it's -30C or colder. Thn we'll take it to places where it's 40C even hotter if we can find temperatures that high.

This aircraft won't have a cabin and it won't have the heavy flight test installations that MSN001 and MSN003 have. It will have a 'light' test installation and we'll use this aircraft primarily for external noise tests, lightning tests, some systems and autopilot tests, and maintenance training.

This is a key aircraft for us: it will have a cabin and it will have all of the modifications and improvements that we've made since testing began. It should be ready in spring, just months before we'll deliver to our first customer, Qatar Airlines.

MSN005 will carry passengers as it basically makes a round-the-word trip during what we call 'route proving', when we prove to ourselves and to our customers that the aircraft will do the job that it is supposed to do.


Flutter test : Going to the edge

When a flight test crew puts on helmets and parachutes, you know they’re going to attempt a potentially risky mission.

And that’s what the crew of MSN001 did on 23 October during what’s called a ‘flutter test’. Although it has an innocent-sounding name, a flutter test is one of the most critical and most dangerous tests during an aircraft’s flight test campaign.

Stéphane Vaux, flight test engineer, gave some background on flutter: If you have a structure that oscillates or vibrates, the oscillations can be neutral, meaning they have a constant amplitude or wave size.

Or oscillations can decrease, where the amplitudes slowly decrease, up to the point where you have no more oscillation. This is what we call ‘damping.’ But the oscillations can also get bigger and bigger. If that happens, there’s the potential for structural failure.

“With flutter testing, we’re confirming the aircraft’s damping properties, how effectively it reduces oscillations”

When performing a flutter test, the pilots will push the aircraft to its designed speed and mach limits. (Note: There is a difference between speed and mach. In general, at constant speeds, as elevation increases, the mach number – how close the aircraft is to the speed of sound – also increases.) But to truly test the aircraft’s damping ability, the flight engineers will artificially ‘excite’ the flight control surfaces: the rudder, ailerons and elevators.

To ‘excite’ the aircraft, Stéphane sends signals to the flight control surfaces that initiate oscillations. “With the aircraft already shaking, there’s a second flight test engineer monitoring what I do”, he said. “He’s making sure I don’t type in the wrong input, something that could damage the aircraft.”

At the same time, the pilots have their own challenges. In a violently shaking aircraft, they have to sustain constant speed and mach. They must also maintain proper pitch and bank angle during the excitation phase, which can last up to three minutes.

In order to minimise risk, the crew will only gradually increase the aircraft’s speed and mach combinations. After each excitation phase, Stéphane explained, “We look at the data and get feedback from flutter and aero-elasticity experts monitoring the flight in the telemetry office.”

Stéphane Vaux about flutter tests

Inputting information from dozens of accelerometers around the aircraft into complex mathematical models, those experts will analyse the structure’s damping response. “If the oscillations are damped, the structure is stable”, Stéphane said. “If not, the aircraft can be severely damaged.” Only if the results are good will the flight crew accelerate to the next speed and mach combination.

After each five-hour flutter flight, Stéphane said the crew comes back exhausted. “The test requires non-stop concentration,” he said. “We’re demanding a lot of the aircraft – we’re right at the limits of what it can do.”

With the successful completion of the flutter test campaign – six flights in total – the A350 XWB’s flight envelope, in terms of speed and mach, is now completely opened. As Stéphane said, what this means is

“We have flown faster – and rougher – than what any customer A350 XWB will ever experience.”


VMU test :
Finding the slowest safe speed for take-off

Known as the Velocity Minimum Unstick (VMU) test, it’s a critical test for aircraft certification. What it does is measure the slowest safe speed an aircraft can go and still achieve take-off, or ‘unstick’ itself from the runway.

Prior to the test, a metallic ‘tail bumper’ (or ‘sabot,’ the French word for ‘horseshoe’) was attached to the bottom of the aircraft, towards the rear. This prevents damage as the angle of take-off would otherwise cause the fuselage to drag along the runway.

The test crew needed calm conditions – wind causes inaccurate results – and found them at a little-used airport just outside of Paris near the end of September. Going as slow as 130 knots – about 250 kilometres per hour – the flight test crew made 12 test runs over the course of 3-1/2 hours.

Hugues Van Der Stichel, one of three project pilots for the A350 XWB programme, sat in the right-hand seat of the cockpit and was responsible for controlling the aircraft’s pitch, or angle of attack.


Frank Chapman, another project pilot, sat in the left-hand seat and was responsible for controlling the aircraft’s roll, its side-to-side motion. Pascal Verneau, the test flight engineer, worked the thrust control.

Hugues described his role: “I focussed only on the display, looking to get the nose elevated close to 11 degrees. Depending on the thrust, we rolled anywhere from 2000 to 3000 metres down the runway, leaving us maybe only 900 metres before the end of the runway.”

“When we lifted off the first time, I exhaled and said a big ‘Whew!”


Meanwhile, in the cabin were the three flight test engineers, each with a critical role to play in checking the aircraft’s performance. Philippe Sève, who was responsible for the test preparation, was monitoring flight test instrumentation data for the tail bumper. He would signal when it hit the runway and when it lifted. “If we hit the tail bumper too hard or we hit behind the tail bumper, we’d damage the fuselage”, he said. “If that happens, we lose several days of testing for repairs.” He added that the tests were visually spectacular: “For those 10 seconds when the tail bumper is dragging, there are sparks flying everywhere.”

Because pilots are trained not to drag the tail of the aircraft, Hugues said it was a ‘weird feeling – very unnatural’ to intentionally do so. “But after the second or third test, it got easier to do.” He said they performed the test 12 times because they used four different settings for the wing flaps and then had three different speeds for each flap setting. “With the higher speeds, we had less time to stabilise the pitch”, he said.

“But the lower speeds were a bigger challenge because there wasn’t much runway left if something went wrong.” In the end, the crew was very satisfied with the performance. Asked if there were any surprises, Philippe said, “Just one: we brought several tail bumpers, but we only needed one to do all of the tests.”

“We brought several tail bumpers, but we only needed one to do all of the tests.”



A strange name for a Very important Building


On a map of Airbus' St. Martin facility just outside of Toulouse, it's listed at building M81. Above the northern entrance, there’s a large banner proclaiming it to the ‘Henri Perrier Flight Test Centre’, named after a pioneering Aerospatiale test flight engineer who was part of Concorde’s mythical first flight crew.

But most everyone at the facility knows it by a different name: the abreuvoir.

It got that nickname thanks to its appearance when seen from above. With multiple aircraft parked around the building day and night, flight test crews flying over the building thought that it looked just like a feed trough – in French, an abreuvoir – with animals gathered around.

“At the abreuvoir, here are just a few of the people – the ‘farmers’ – you can find and what they do at the home to Airbus’ flight test department”



The 'farmers'

Gabriel Quadri BLLTV — Head of flight test

Gabriel Quadri – “Please, everyone calls me Gaby” – is something of a living legend at the abreuvoir, the building that is home to the Airbus flight test department. That’s because Gaby has been at the abreuvoir for more than 30 years and has participated in the first flights of virtually every Airbus aircraft family since the A310 of the early 1980s to the iconic A380 and now the A350 XWB.

Today, Gaby leads a team of more than 200 people who work virtually round-the-clock to keep Airbus’ fleet of test aircraft in perfect flying condition. “I think of our test aircraft as Airbus Airlines,” he said.

“It’s my team’s responsibility to make sure our ‘airline’ performs to its best.”


Pedro Dias — Flight test operations

Pedro Dias — Flight test operations

Surrounded by three large video screens showing the status of all Airbus test flight aircraft - including where they are, how fast they're flying, and at what elevation - Pedro describes himself as a 'concierge for the flight test department - when someone needs something, they call us.'

It's a very busy place, with phones ringing constantly.

“We are the link between the ground crews, flight engineers and pilots, and air traffic control”

“When there's a change in plans, we're the ones who help find a solution.”


Jérôme Dizier — Maintenance control centre

In a small room on the ground floor, a team of engineers is monitoring the performance of each aircraft's systems — its flight control, hydraulics, electrical, and other systems. This morning the focus is on MSN003 and its first flight.

Jérôme describes himself as a “customer focus engineer”. He's worked for and with airlines for years and knows their issues.

“We're following the systems in real time.”

“If there's a problem, we'll know before they land and we can prepare the maintenance teams”, he said. “It's this rapid response that lets an aircraft do two test flights a day.”

Jérôme Dizier — Maintenance control centre

Hervé Bruere — Head of MAP department

MAP, the french acronym for Mise au Point, is a support team for last-minute problems.

“We're like firemen putting out problems”

Working primarily on the A350 XWB programme for the past three years, he said he slept easy the night before MSN003's first flight: “Everything is under control - there aren't any problems with this aircraft.”

Candice Boudonnet — Flight Test Installation manager for MSN003

Leading a team responsible for installing and checking the flight test instrumentation on MSN003, Candice isn't based at the abreuvoir, but she was there after MSN003 left the final assembly line, continuing to be there for 10 days, right up to the morning of the first flight.

“I've been working on this programme for five years and I've never worked on a first flight aircraft before”.

“This is a very exciting day”


Jean Paul Lambert — Flight Test engineer

Jean Paul Lambert — Flight Test engineer

“There's a different spirit here,” he said. “Maybe because we consider it to be the birthplace of Airbus, where the A300 and the Concorde came to life.”

With aircraft constantly parked outside the building, Jean Paul said it was a constant temptation to run downstairs and board one.

“We're pilots and flight engineers : we always want to fly;”

“There's a different spirit here, maybe because we consider it to be the birthplace of Airbus”


Audrey Jeurissen

Flight test instrumentation architect

A test aircraft is unlike any aircraft you’ve ever been on. Instead of overhead storage lockers, seats, and galleys, it’s filled with testing equipment: cables, monitors, and sensors. This equipment provides feedback on the aircraft’s systems – its flight control, hydraulic, electrical, and other systems – as well as on the behaviour of the structure itself. For Airbus, a test aircraft is like a ‘data factory,’ producing vital information for a wide range of experts.

The person ensuring that those experts get the test data they need is known as a ‘flight test instrumentation architect.’

Audrey Jeurissen is one of these architects and she spoke about the scope of what she does: “Before the aircraft is even at the final assembly line (FAL), we’re installing the test equipment. For example, we have sensors inside of the wings. We can’t wait until the FAL to install them – we do it when the wings are being assembled in Broughton, UK. It’s the same thing at our sites in France, Germany, and Spain, where the different fuselage sections and structural components are assembled. That way, when the aircraft is completed at the FAL, everything is interconnected.”

“We have more than 5000 sensors inside and outside of the aircraft, more than 335 kilometres (more than 200 miles) of cables, and 22 tonnes of equipment”

How much equipment is there? “For a test aircraft, we have more than 5000 sensors inside and outside of the aircraft, more than 335 kilometres (more than 200 miles) of cables, and 22 tonnes of equipment,” she said.

Audrey Jeurissen

It’s obviously a big job, one that started when the A350 XWB programme was launched more than five years ago. “Luckily, we’ve been able to re-use some equipment from prior test programmes,” she said. “But we have a lot of new equipment, too.”

The A350 XWB fuselage makes extensive use of composite materials. Audrey said the biggest difference between composite and metal is that composite doesn’t have the same electrical properties as metal.

With two test aircraft – MSN1 and MSN3 – now flying, Audrey is primarily concerned with the right information to the experts, whether they’re in systems, aerodynamics, structures or elsewhere. “Our systems record everything that happens in flight,” she said. “Our job is to choose the right system for each test and get that information where it’s needed.”

The next big challenge for her team is finalising the instrumentation set-up for MSN2. Unlike MSN1 and MSN3, this aircraft has a fully-equipped cabin so nearly all of the computers will go into the cargo bay. “With this aircraft we’ll also be measuring the cabin temperature, pressure, and oxygen systems,” she said. “And we need to make sure that all of the things the passengers and crew use – the lavatories, the galleys, the overhead lockers, etc. – work as they should during flight.”

“Our systems record everything that happens in flight”

Finally, Audrey was asked if she goes on test flights. She smiled and said. “I leave that to the pilots and flight test engineers. My job is to be the architect behind the test equipment.”


FAL guided tour

  • #01 : Station 59

    Pre-installed modules arrive in the FAL
    Cabin monuments installation.

  • #02 : Station 50

    Structural fuselage join-up.
    Fuselage transfert on transporter.

  • #03 : Station 40

    Fuselage transfer on transporter
    Cabin - Wing to fuselage join-up - First power-on
    Horizontal Tail-Plane - Vertical Tail plane - Tail cone Pylon
    Main landing gear

  • #04 : Station 30

    Indoor Ground Tests
    Cabin customization

  • #05 : Station 18

    Outdoor Ground Tests

  • #06 : Painting


  • #07 : Station 20

    Engines installation
    Cockpit furnishing



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