A350 XWB Magazine #07:
“ Certifiably Excellent ”
In just over 14 months Airbus executed one of the toughest, most intense test programmes ever developed and it was rewarded for its efforts when, on 30 September, the A350-900 received EASA Type Certification, paving the way for commercial launch with Qatar Airways.
Didier Evrard, head of the A350 XWB programme, said, “This is a great moment for Airbus employees and our risk-sharing partners around the world. We should be very proud! The A350 XWB flew on time, was certified on time and will be delivered on time. It’s an impressive scorecard for a brand-new aircraft.
“There are challenges and excitement ahead for sure. But today, the A350 XWB is ready to fly the nest. As we look forward to entry into service, I want to thank you all for your contribution to our Xtra special journey.”
In Issue #7, join our video teams as they follow MSN005 on its round-the world Route Proving Trips with stops in South Africa, Australia, Finland, Brazil, Singapore and more. And be sure to check out the impressive test fleet formation flight featuring all five A350 XWB test aircraft.
Get set! The A350 XWB is ready to leave the nest!
The A350-900’s EASA and FAA type certificates are one of the year’s biggest milestones for Airbus. Why? Because certification is recognition of our expertise in aircraft design and our mastery of new technology. Because it recognises the engagement of employees, risk-sharing partners and suppliers who have worked hand in hand during six years of development. And because with it, the A350 XWB is now formally cleared for take-off with launch customer Qatar Airways and beyond.
Fourteen and a half months after being introduced to the world at first flight, the A350-900 is ready for entry into service. Preparation for type certification actually began when the A350 XWB was launched in 2007. It started with an application letter sent to the two certifying bodies: the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In addition to type certification, EASA has also granted the A350-900 unlimited Extended Twin Operations Performance Standards (ETOPS), meaning the aircraft can fly the most direct routes on the world’s longest, remotest flights without limitations (at the time of going to press, FAA ETOPS certification had yet to be confirmed.) Finally, A350 XWB and A330 operators will benefit from Common Type Rating, extending commonality between Airbus aircraft families.
The regulatory approval means that A330-qualified pilots can begin preparations to take the A350 XWB’s controls by undergoing ‘differences training’ only.
“Airbus and the authorities have engaged through every development stage,” says Jean-Claude Nanche, A350 XWB chief airworthiness engineer. Test aircraft MSN001 was cleared for its first flight by Airbus under direct delegation from the certifiers. It was a first, and Jean-Claude signed the Flight Permit. “Trust and professionalism bind us,” he stresses.
The full-time certification team was highly motivated by the A350 XWB’s high level of maturity. “We all wanted to get things done on time and there was pride in being so closely involved in such a prestigious programme,” Jean-Claude adds.
“Receiving the A350-900 Type Certification is a great achievement for Airbus and for all of our partners who have contributed to designing, building and certificating this fantastic, new generation aircraft. The A350-900 is now ready to fly from the nest and be enjoyed by airlines and passengers. With this milestone, we celebrate the future of Airbus.”Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO.
Plateaux and partners
When new technology or features are introduced to an aircraft, existing rules have to be amended via discussions between the manufacturer and certifying bodies. Such was the case with the A350 XWB, notably because of the aircraft’s 53% composite make-up.
Amendments included the industrial ‘risk-sharing’ model. “We needed to show that our partners were working to the exact same rules and standards as Airbus,” says Chantal Fualdes, executive composites expert and a member of the A350 XWB structures certification team.
Type certification (TC) applies to test aircraft MSN005, which was required to be ‘representative’ of serial-production aircraft. During the final months of the process, Airbus and EASA created a shared plateau in EASA’s home city of Cologne, Germany. During that time, a joint progress monitoring system was developed that provides both Airbus and the authorities with the same picture of priorities, workload and resource allocation.
TC defines the baseline configuration that comprises an A350-900. The work is not over yet, however. Subsequent modifications require separate certification before entry into service. Some are certified by Airbus under EASA delegation; others require the direct approval of the authorities. “While we’ve been working hard on TC, the A350 XWB’s good level of maturity has given us time to prepare all the documentation relative to Qatar Airways’ customisation in parallel,” says Jean-Claude.
“This is a great moment for Airbus employees and our risk-partners around the world. We should be very proud! The A350 XWB flew on time, was certified on time and will be delivered on time. It's an impressive scorecard for a brand new aircraft.”Didier Evrard, head of the A350 XWB programme.
Fabrice Brégier, Tom Enders, Gordon MacConnell, Didier Evrard and Charles Champion join EASA's Patrick Ky at the certification ceremony in Toulouse.
One defining feature of A350 XWB certification was the extensive use of simulators and functional integrated test benches (FIB) to test, debug and integrate the aircraft’s systems as early as possible. In total, some 40 FIBs were deployed to iron out snags and non-compliances.
The programme possesses two dedicated flight test simulators. A third tool, created by the test centre and known as the Virtual Integration Platform (VIP), made a major contribution to simplifying and speeding up the process. External partners, often responsible for major work packages, made use of system test benches to put their equipment through its paces as early as possible too.
The systems integration team works from plateaux in Toulouse, France; Filton, UK; and Bremen and Hamburg in Germany. “Problem solving and decision-making happen faster when people work at the same site,” says François Cerbelaud, A350 XWB overall systems chief engineer. “The plateau approach has been central to on-time development and certification. We couldn’t have done it any other way.
“For the A350-1000 we should be able to make things simpler with fewer ground and flight tests,” François concludes. “It’s a goal we share with the authorities. The framework and relationships are already in place; now things have to move fast.”
Impressive and very successful. These are the words that sum up the A350 XWB flight campaign. The flight test team began planning five years ahead, fixing the number of development aircraft at five in order to optimise availability and agility. EASA and FAA Flight Panel representatives flew onboard the test fleet for around 270 flight hours out of a total 2,600; some tests were delegated to Airbus under the bodies’ full authority.
One catalyst for smooth certification was the early testing of Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB engine and systems using the A380 flying test bed. And after first flight, A350 MSN001 flew frequently without encountering any major snags, quickly building up flight hours (90 hours for the first month alone). “The more we fly early on in the campaign, the faster we eliminate bugs,” says Patrick du Ché, head of development flight test. “This was a mature aircraft from the start, a ‘well-born baby’ if you like.”
The close collaboration between Patrick’s flight test team and the A350 XWB programme centred on a large number of specialities. “I’d never seen as many people in flight test headquarters in Toulouse,” he remembers. “The engagement and determination of every team really helped us to pilot the flight test campaign to its successful conclusion. We did it! This experience has shown Airbus at its best.”
What’s specific to certifying a carbon aircraft?
- Managing impact damage to carbon parts.
- Longer maintenance cycles: CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic) is less sensitive to fatigue, so the A350 XWB may require its first inspection after twelve years’ service instead of eight as is the case for metal aircraft.
- How the carbon fuselage presents an ‘equivalent safety level’ with metallic aircraft.
Team A350 XWB: The newly-certified test fleet flew together for the first time on 29 Sept 2014.
Aircraft certification for beginners:
The What, How and Why
Over the course of their 14 and a half month flight test campaign, the five A350 XWB test aircraft accumulated more than 2,600 flight test hours and over 600 flights. The aircraft spent so much time in the air to conduct tests in preparation for certification. But what exactly does ‘certified’ mean?
Sophie Berrondo, type certification manager for the A350 XWB programme, spoke with us to give the how, what and why of aircraft certification.
What is certification?
The certification activities performed by Airbus cover obtaining and then maintaining certification. Obtaining certification is managed in two steps; first, Type Certification, then Individual Certification for each aircraft of the type. Type Certification means that a new aircraft type, like the A350 XWB, meets all of the requirements set out by the airworthiness authorities for a brand new aircraft. Later, when an aircraft prepares to enter into commercial service, it will need an ‘Individual Certification.’ Certification is mandatory for an aircraft – without it, an airline cannot operate the aircraft.
Maintaining certification is for when the aircraft is in service. Today, let’s focus on obtaining certification.
What’s the difference between Type Certification and Individual Certification?
For ‘Type Certification,’ the authorities are making sure that the basic design of the new aircraft is airworthy. So we tested and demonstrated everything in the aircraft, from A to Z. From the design of the aircraft and all along the development phase, we carried out ground, static and flight tests to measure how the aircraft performs in any condition – hot or cold, wet or dry, high altitude and low, etc. We tested all of the aircraft’s systems: landing gear, oxygen, safety, avionics, and all the rest. Actually, if it’s on the aircraft, it gets tested and must meet the authorities’ requirements.
‘Individual Certification’ happens later. For example, A350 XWB MSN006 will enter into service later this year with Qatar Airways. To start commercial operations, MSN006 must have an Individual Certification. For this purpose, Airbus needs to show that all of the equipment inside of the aircraft complies with the authorities’ regulations. This means we need to show compliance for the seats, the fire extinguishers, any electronics and equipment selected by the operator, and more. And because each airline has its own unique interior, it will need its ‘head of version’ (the model for all other aircraft of that type it will take) to be certified. Airbus also applies to the customer’s national aviation authority, which validates the Type Certificate and allows the aircraft to be registered and operated in that country.
“From the design of the aircraft and all along the development phase, we carried out ground, static and flight tests to measure how the aircraft performs in any condition - hot or cold, wet or dry, high altitude and low, etc.”Sophie Berrondo, type certification manager for the A350 XWB programme team.
Who certifies the aircraft?
There are two main international airworthiness bodies: EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and the American FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). For most Airbus programmes, there is concurrent certification by EASA and FAA, but as a European manufacturer, our primary authority (from which we obtain the Type Certificate) is EASA. Then we have to validate the Type Certificate in all non-EU countries where the individual aircraft will be registered.
Later, the Individual Certification activities take place to allow the customer to obtain at each delivery the “Standard Certificates of Airworthiness” from the authorities of the customer’s country.
The Iron Bird test rig located in Toulouse, used for the early ground testing of the A350 XWB's systems.
Were the airworthiness authorities present during the testing process?
Authorities define how far they must be involved in the certification process. Pilots and other representatives from the authorities are onboard during the test flights they want to witness, but not on every one. It’s the same for the certification documents: certain of them are ‘self-approved’ by Airbus thanks to a ‘Design Organisation Approval.’ EASA audits us on a regular basis to make sure that all of our certification methods are robust.
The A350 XWB had its first flight in June 2013. Did the Type Certification process begin then?
We actually started back in 2007 with a kick-off meeting. We informed EASA and FAA of what our basic designs were and we’ve kept them up-to-date as we’ve progressed. Of course, they keep us informed as to changes in the requirements. And before the first flight, we did extensive testing in our labs and simulators. We also used a complex testing rig known as the Iron Bird, where we can test all aircraft systems and functions on the ground.
Route proven: The A350 XWB flew around the world during August as part of its certification testing.
Is it true that the period from Type Certification to entry into service for the A350 XWB is shorter than it was for the A380?
Yes. We expect the period between Type Certification and entry into service to be somewhere between 2-3 months. For the A380, it was 12 months. The difference is due to: 1) a huge planning and preparation effort and 2) advances in technology that allowed us to perform significant systems testing even prior to the first flight.
How many people work on the certification process for the A350 XWB?
In my department there are eight people who are 100% dedicated to the A350 XWB. In the Product Integrity department, 25 certification managers are working part-time on our programme. And there is a pool of hundreds of people – design certification specialists, systems experts, pilots, test flight engineers, and more – who work closely with the Chief Engineer and aircraft architects for the A350 XWB programme.
It’s been more than a year since the first flight of MSN001, are activities slowing down?
This summer was a very busy period for the programme. There were many, many test results coming in and we needed to include those results and other data as we prepared the certification dossier for the authorities.
Last question: Are you happy with the programme’s progress?
Our progress is quite good. And we’re pleased with the test results. So far, so good. We’ve achieved certification right on time!
A350 XWB around the world:
“Thank you, Airbus, for bringing this beautiful aircraft to us”
Coordinating 26 flights using MSN005 in 20 days to 14 major airports located all around the globe is a Herculean task. Consider that the team was responsible for moving flight crews and maintenance teams from country to country, ensuring the support of local airport and national airworthiness authorities, and organising customer visits and media coverage from Sydney to Helsinki, from Johannesburg to Singapore. As flight test engineer Jean-Michel Merle said, “It took ‘Teamwork’ with a capital T to make it succeed and this Route Proving exercise succeeded. It absolutely succeeded.”
Jean-Michel was asked to lead and organise the team behind the Route Proving flights, the last major testing of the A350 XWB for type certification. Also known as ‘Functioning and Reliability’ testing, Route Proving aimed at demonstrating to the airworthiness authorities and to its customers that the A350 XWB will perform as promised during typical operating conditions.
Jean-Michel said that during the exercise, the aircraft had five separate criteria it needed to fulfil:
- Landing/Take-off at a high altitude airport.
- Operate in hot and dry conditions.
- Operate in hot and humid conditions.
- Fly a polar route.
- Fly over the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
For the high altitude airport, the team chose Johannesburg, South Africa, with an elevation of 5500 feet/1680 metres. “We also used this airport to test the aircraft’s autoland feature,” Jean-Michel said. Flight test engineer Sylvie Loisel-Labaste, who helped design the autoland system, added, “We performed several tests of the system there and the results were excellent.”
For hot and dry conditions, the team went twice to Doha, home of the launch customer, Qatar Airways. Rainer Beins, field service representative – customer focussed engineering for the A350 XWB, said, “We performed a hot soak test here, doing everything that the airline would do, from ground handling to maintenance. In my eyes, everything went really well and the performance of the systems was fantastic!”
The team made eight flights between Singapore and Hong Kong in less than three days to demonstrate the aircraft’s effectiveness in hot and humid conditions and they made a flight to Iqaluit, Canada using a polar route. Finally, the aircraft flew over the Atlantic Ocean (Sao Paolo-Toulouse), Pacific Ocean (Auckland-Santiago) and Indian Ocean (Johannesburg-Sydney & Doha-Perth) along ETOPS routes.
But the flights weren’t conducted solely for technical purposes. Mike Bausor, A350 XWB marketing director, said the flights were “a fantastic way of showing off this beautiful aircraft.” Involved with the programme since its launch, Mike said, “It’s a dream come true to see this aircraft flying and flying so well in an airline-like operating environment.”
During the three-week exercise, Mike was on board for all of the flights. “We’ve seen different places and different countries, heard different languages and experienced different environments – often on the same day. Through it all, one thing stayed the same: everyone’s delight in getting a chance to see, feel, and touch this wonderful aircraft.”
“It’s a dream come true to see this aircraft flying and flying so well in an airline-like operating environment.”Mike Bausor, A350 XWB marketing director.
Mike echoed Jean-Michel when describing how this ‘exhausting, yet exhilarating experience’ was accomplished. “People have gone the Xtra mile, they’ve gone beyond their role to make this whole exercise work. The result was three weeks of intensive flying with nothing but happy faces everywhere we went,” he said. “From people on the ground who couldn’t make the trip to the pilots, engineers, mechanics, communications people, and our suppliers, everyone played a part in making this a great success.”
One of the supplier representatives who participated in the tour was Olga Bogomolova, an engineer with Rolls-Royce’s flight test integration group. “We had people from Rolls-Royce on each leg of the tour, making sure everything went OK with the engines,” she said. “We’re really happy with the engine – it’s very mature and we’re showing that on this route proving exercise.”
A native of Russia, Olga said after landing in Moscow, “It’s great to be here with Rolls-Royce and Airbus and bringing this beautiful aircraft for everyone to see. It’s a very proud moment for me and it’s nice to be able to assist people on board with the language.”
Speaking at the Helsinki Airport, Pekka Vauramo, president and CEO of Finnair, said that he and his employees had long been looking forward to this day, to seeing the aircraft. “People were watching the radar screens, watching the aircraft’s progress, with a real sense of excitement. We will receive our first A350 XWB in 2015 and it is so important for our future. We congratulate Airbus for what you have achieved so far. The aircraft is incredible and comments I’ve heard from our pilots and crew members have been very positive,” he said. “Our passengers are really going to appreciate the comfort, the space, the new technology and all of the new details in the cabin. And with the improved fuel economy, this aircraft will help us on our long-haul fuel bills plus be great for the environment, too.”
“I am so excited – this is just a great moment. I’m going to fly this aircraft, the aircraft for today, the aircraft of the future.” Later, after landing the aircraft, Jari concluded, “This was such a top moment – I can’t wait for entry into service and to fly this aircraft with our beautiful Finnair colours.”Jari Paajanen, chief pilot for Finnair.
Perhaps one of the happiest people to see MSN005 was Jari Paajanen, chief pilot for Finnair. That’s because he was going to fly the aircraft from Helsinki back to Toulouse, the final leg of the Route Proving exercise. Before taking the controls, he said “I am so excited – this is just a great moment. I’m going to fly this aircraft, the aircraft for today, the aircraft of the future.” Later, after landing the aircraft, Jari concluded, “This was such a top moment – I can’t wait for entry into service and to fly this aircraft with our beautiful Finnair colours.”
Now that the world tour is over, perhaps two children who visited the aircraft in Perth summed up the experience best. First, a young girl trying out the lie-flat seats, said, “This is really cool! I want to fly on this aircraft!” Moments later, a young boy, having toured the aircraft with his father, an executive with an aircraft leasing company, stopped Mike Bausor and gave him a drawing he had made of MSN005. It read: “To Airbus. Thank you.”
Facts and figures
Aircraft : MSN005
Flights : 26
Days : 20
Flight hours : 177
Distance flown : 81 700 nm / 151 300 km
Delay due to mechanical issues : 0
Airports : 14
Static displays : 8
VIP flights : 6
Flight crews : 7
each with 3 pilots, 1 test flight engineer, 2 flight test engineers, 2 cabin crew engineers for a total of 56 flight crew members
Maintenance teams : 5
each with 10-12 people for a total of 50-60 people
Oceans flown over : 4
Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific
Continents visited : 6
Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America
SMILES : TOO MANY TO COUNT
Toulouse > Iqaluit > Frankfurt > Toulouse
SLIDESHOW TRIP 1
Toulouse > Hong Kong > Singapore > Hong Kong > Toulouse
SLIDESHOW TRIP 2
Toulouse > Johannesburg > Sydney > Auckland > Santiago > Sao Paulo > Toulouse
SLIDESHOW TRIP 3
Toulouse > Doha > Perth > Doha > Moscow > Helsinki > Toulouse
SLIDESHOW TRIP 4