A350 XWB Magazine #05:
“Time to Leave Home : The A350 XWB Goes Global ”
In the months between its initial flight in October and the end of 2013, MSN003 continued to accumulate flight test hours. And during that time, all of its flights began and ended at its home in Toulouse, France. But that’s all changed in the first few weeks of 2014.
In Issue #5, join our video teams as they follow MSN003 and its crew to the heights of Bolivia and the cold of wintertime Canada, then to the Qatari desert and tropical Singapore. Plus, we’ll take you back for an encore visit to MSN5000, the non-flying test specimen, as it undergoes the ultimate in ‘torture tests.’
High and Cold Test Campaign
Bolivia and the High Altitude Test Campaign
At high altitudes, the lack of oxygen and lower air pressure can make both man and machine suffer.
For just like human beings, jet engines need oxygen to ‘breathe.’
So as part of the airworthiness certification process, aircraft need to prove that they can operate safely at high altitudes.
That’s why the A350 XWB development aircraft MSN003 and its 40-person flight crew recently made a 13-hour flight from Toulouse, France to Bolivia. There, they went to the high altitude airfields of Cochabamba and La Paz.
Cochabamba is around 8,300 feet/2,500 meters above sea level, and La Paz is one of the world’s highest airports at 13,300 feet/4,050 meters. At these altitudes, Cochabamba has 75 per cent and La Paz has only 62 per cent of the oxygen available at sea level.
“We pushed them to their limits and we're very happy with the results”Emanuele Costanzo, flight test engineer and powerplant and APU specialist
Operations at such high altitude airfields are especially demanding on engines and the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). But over the course of five days, the team also tested all of the aircraft’s systems – electrical, hydraulic, landing gear, and more – as well as the structure itself. In addition, they evaluated cabin pressurisation and general aircraft handling qualities during high altitude take-offs and landings.
Emanuele Costanzo, flight test engineer and powerplant and APU specialist, said that the engines and APU performed exceptionally during flight and ground tests. “We pushed them to their limits and we’re very, very happy with the results.” He said that he was particularly interested in seeing how the engines performed at start-up and during take-offs. “They have performed beyond our expectations.”
Patrick du Ché, head of Development Flight Tests, was upbeat at the conclusion of the tests. “So far, so good. We need to demonstrate that the aircraft can operate in extreme conditions and what can I say, this aircraft is behaving really well.”
Iqaluit, Canada: Home of the Cold Weather Test Campaign
Only two weeks after completing the high altitude test campaign in Bolivia, MSN003 made the journey to Iqaluit, Canada to undergo cold weather trials.
With temperatures as low as -28C/-18F, a team of 48 Airbus specialists – plus supplier and airline representatives – performed a broad range of tests, including engine and Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) starts after cold soak; verifying system behaviour; low-speed taxi and rejected take-offs.
Emanuele Costanzo, flight test engineer, said that cold weather trials are one of the most difficult testing environments for an aircraft. “After a cold soak – when we shut everything down on the aircraft overnight – the aircraft’s systems and components are not happy when we restart them. But we were able to achieve full thrust of the engines just five minutes after we turned them on the next morning. We even performed a local flight following a cold soak with minimum preparation time between engine restart and take-off. The tests demonstrate that this aircraft can handle this extreme environment.”
For flight test specialist engineer Julie Mautin, the big challenge was keeping the flight test instrumentation warm.
“Our flight test instrumentation computers and screens aren’t as robust as all of the aircraft equipment. So we had a special-made fabric ‘igloo’ to cover them and keep them warm.”Emanuele Costanzo, flight test engineer and powerplant and APU specialist
“Our flight test instrumentation computers and screens aren’t as robust as all of the aircraft equipment. So we had a special-made fabric ‘igloo’ to cover them and keep them warm. Because, even during the cold soak, our flight test instrumentation sensors were measuring how the temperature was evolving throughout the aircraft.”
Jouni Jussila, representing Finnair, the first customer to sign a purchase agreement for the A350 XWB, expressed why tests such as these are needed: “Our weather in Finland is very much like this, so I have to say that I’m quite impressed with how the aircraft is working in these conditions.”
Ultimate Wing Load Test
It’s the week before Christmas 2013 and an airplane is parked in an enormous hangar in Toulouse, France.
Attached to it are dozens of wires and pulleys and they start pulling on the wings. The wingtips go up and up...one metre...two metres...all the way to five metres higher than they were at rest position.
It was all part of what is known as the ‘ultimate load test’ for wings and it’s the last major test that MSN5000 – a non-flying A350 XWB test specimen – would be subjected to during its short lifetime.
“Loads applied to MSN5000 were much higher than those that any A350 XWB aircraft would ever experience in its lifetime.”
Gordon McConnell, Chief Engineer for the A350 XWB program, said that during the test, loads applied to MSN5000 were much higher than those that any A350 XWB aircraft would ever experience in its lifetime. “When designing the A350 XWB, our engineers analysed data from thousands of flights. They were looking to find the highest stresses or loads that aircraft were subjected to during hard landings, sharp turns, extreme wind gusts, or other bad weather. Then they designed the aircraft to withstand loads at least 50 per cent higher than those predicted load limits.”
For the ultimate load test, the stress team gradually applied load increases to the wing. “We went in 10 per cent increments and monitored more than 10,000 sensors in real-time to verify the performance. At 140 per cent of the load limit, we went in five per cent increments,” Gordon said. “Of course, there was tension as we took the last step, but the structure behaved exactly as predicted. With success in this most severe test, we had a lot of happy stress engineers.”
The last of 10 major load cases to be tested, the successful completion of the ultimate wing load test is an important milestone on the road to certification of the A350 XWB.
What's Next for MSN5000?
When MSN5000 – the A350 XWB static test specimen – was moved into its hangar, it was surrounded by 2000 square metres of scaffolding and connected to thousands of sensors and dozens of kilometres of wiring and pipes.
Since then, beginning early in 2013, it has been subjected to one stress test after another. With the successful completion of the final test – the ultimate wing load test in December – the question has been asked: What’s next?
First though, Chris Holmes, head of A350 XWB Airframe Chief Engineering, wanted to talk about the earlier stress tests. “The results have been absolutely fantastic! They’ve shown a very strong correlation to the models and predictions that our engineers made during the design phase. We couldn’t be happier.”
Now, the engineers will start doing smaller, more detailed investigations. “For example, we’ll do ‘deep dives’ on how the doors and landing gear react under different stresses,” Chris said.
The fuselage and wing covers of the A350 XWB are made from composite materials, but the stress tests are virtually identical to those used on metallic components. Still, the stress team wants to learn even more about how composite materials behave. Soon they’ll conduct ‘residual strength’ tests, where they make cuts and de-laminate surfaces to assess the effect on load strength.
“The results have been absolutely fantastic! They’ve shown a very strong correlation to the models and predictions that our engineers made during the design phase. We couldn’t be happier.”Chris Holmes, Head of A350 XWB Airframe Chief Engineering.
Next, they will begin ‘margin research’ to further understand the structural behaviour of the entire aircraft outside the requested tests for certification and enable the team to learn valuable information on how to improve future aircraft capabilities on the A350 XWB family.
Visiting the Home of the A350 XWB Launch Customer: Qatar Airways
“This is a proud moment for Airbus and also for Qatar Airways. With the A350 XWB soon to join us, it only continues to prove our ongoing commitment to the next generation of aircraft. I would like to thank Airbus for showcasing the A350 XWB here today and we look forward to inducting the aircraft into our fleet in the fourth quarter of this year.”Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.
Those are the words of Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, the A350 XWB launch customer, as he welcomed the arrival of MSN003 on 5 February 2014. Only two days earlier, Mr. Al Baker was in Toulouse, France and saw the grand unveiling of the special Qatar/Airbus livery on MSN004, the fourth member of the A350 XWB test fleet.
MSN003, one of two A350 XWB development test aircraft currently flying, and its flight crew made the visit to the future hub of Qatar Airways, the new Hamad International Airport in Doha, as part of its itinerary on the way to the Singapore Airshow the following week.
Under bright blue Qatari skies, MSN003 and its crew were met by Mr. Al Baker, Qatari government officials, and Qatar Airways pilots, flight crews, and employees. All of them eager to see up close how MSN003, a member of the world’s newest aircraft family, would perform. Later, during a red carpet ceremony, officials were invited inside to tour the cockpit and the test equipment-filled interior.
A highlight of the visit was when two Qatar Airways pilots took the controls of the aircraft. This piloting experience was another step in the continuation of the entry-into-service preparations between Airbus and Qatar Airways. The preparations will continue in June when MSN003 returns to Doha as part of the high temperature test campaign.
“Stopping at the home of our launch customer and flying in front of Qatar Airways management, pilots, crews and employees is an honour and a pleasure for Airbus. It demonstrates our confidence in the aircraft’s maturity and its readiness for operations.”Didier Evrard, Head of A350 XWB programme.
“I’m also very pleased to say that the A350 XWB has not only met, but exceeded, all performance requirements of a new aircraft.”Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.
The A350 XWB Makes a Sparkling Debut at the Singapore Airshow
It’s not easy to overshadow military aircraft aerobatics, but at its first full display at an international airshow, the Airbus A350 XWB did just that.
MSN003, an A350 XWB test aircraft, dominated the attention of figures from aviation, government, media, and the public at the 2014 Singapore Airshow. This event marked the first time that visitors could get a close-up look at the A350 XWB, both on the ground and in the air.
Landing at Singapore’s Changi Airport on 10 February, MSN003 received the star treatment as dozens of members of the media and camera crews were welcomed onboard.
Inside, they saw its test equipment-filled interior, including more than 400 kilometres of orange cables. As Emanuele Costanzo, flight test engineer, explained, “Orange is the colour of flight tests and all the items that you see in orange – the wires and supports – are necessary for the flight test installation.”
The following day, at a red carpet ceremony, Lui Tuck Yew, Singapore’s Minister for Transport, continued the star treatment as he cut a ceremonial ribbon at the entrance to MSN003.
This time, it was aviation and government officials who had the opportunity to tour the aircraft.
The excitement continued the following two days when MSN003 treated the crowds to demonstration flights.
“The reports I hear from people on the ground are that the aircraft looks really nice and that it’s extremely quiet. From my point of view, the display flights worked extremely well – the aircraft behaved perfectly.”Peter Chandler, lead flight test pilot.
The A350 XWB takes centre stage
Two senior Singapore Airlines pilots echoed Peter’s thoughts after taking the opportunity to get behind the controls of MSN003 for a demonstration flight. For example, Quay Chew Eng, who currently pilots an Airbus A330, said, “For me, this demonstration flight is a memorable one. When you look at the flying characteristics, it’s just as advertised by Airbus.”
They also praised the look and feel of the cockpit and its commonality with other Airbus cockpits. Gerard Yeap, who pilots an A380, said, “The greatest compliment to Airbus is that I feel very at home stepping into this cockpit. This aircraft handles and looks and feels like another Airbus.” Mr. Eng added, “I would think the transition from an A330 to an A350 XWB will be almost seamless.” As Peter said, “This is exactly what we were aiming for when we designed the cockpit.”
“We received a very warm welcome at this airshow and we’ve had very nice feedback from everyone here for what we’ve done. We couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone on the team.”Patrick du Ché, head of Development Flight Tests.
MSN003 rolled down the runway and lifted into the Singaporean sky. With a tip of its wings to the crowd below, it started its 14-hour flight home to Toulouse, France. For the crew though, their work continued: the flight meant 14 more hours where they could perform tests.