Airbus A350 XWB’s New Engine Makes First Flight Powering The Airbus A380


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Airbus A350 XWB’s New Engine Makes First Flight Powering The Airbus A380

By Shane Nolan

February 19, 2012 - On Saturday the Airbus A350 XWB’s new engine the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB has successfully made its maiden flight aboard Airbus’ dedicated A380 “Flying-Test-Bed” aircraft. The aircraft took off from Airbus facilities in Toulouse and performed a flight of more than five hours during which the engine covered a wide range of power settings at altitudes up to 43,000ft.

The aircraft handling qualities were evaluated from low speeds to Mach 0.9. The engine not only operated flawlessly, but also demonstrated its new generation fuel efficiency and low noise.

The Trent XWB development engine, specially fitted with test sensors to measure hundreds of parameters, was mounted on the A380’s inner left engine pylon, replacing one of the aircraft’s Trent 900 engines. The crew on board this first flight were Airbus Experimental test pilots Terry Lutz and Frank Chapman, Experimental Test Flight Engineer Pascal Verneau and Flight Test Engineers Emanuele Costanzo and Tuan Do.

“The A350 XWB’s engine performed excellently during its first flight test, just as we expected,” said Charles Champion, Executive Vice President of Engineering at Airbus. “This is a promising start to the Trent XWB’s flight-test program which will ensure a thorough real-life testing of the engine, nacelle and its systems.” He added “This will allow for a high level of powerplant integration, maturity and reliability to be achieved by the time it flies on the first A350 XWB aircraft.”  

The Airbus A350 is a family of long-range, wide-body jet airliners under development by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. It will carry 270 to 350 passengers in three-class seating, depending on variant. 

The A350 was born as an A330-derived minimum-changed competitor to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the larger Boeing 777, but was unanimously rejected by prospective customers. Airbus was forced to redesign the initial proposal, but airlines voiced for a complete overhaul. The eventual proposal incorporates major changes, which Airbus says that will be more fuel-efficient, with up to 8% lower operating cost than the Boeing 787.  

The redesigned A350 was marketed by Airbus as the A350 XWB, where the XWB stands for Extra Wide Body. The launch customer for the A350 is Qatar Airways, which ordered 80 aircraft across the three variants. Development costs are projected to be €12 billion (US$15 billion or Ł10 billion). The airliner is scheduled to enter airline service during the first half of 2014. As of 20 January 2012, 561 orders had been placed for the new aircraft. 

Commencing around one year prior to the A350 XWB’s first flight, this engine flight-test program is scheduled to accumulate around 175 flight hours some three times more airborne flying hours than on previous programs. This will be accomplished over a seven month period and will include hot weather as well as icing condition testing campaigns. It will also test the advanced nacelle and thrust reverser system provided by Goodrich.
The overall objective of these flight-tests is the early and systematic validation of all performance aspects of the engine and also the associated systems. In turn, this will contribute to significantly ‘de-risking’ the A350 XWB’s development well ahead of entry-into-service. The first results of this flight-test campaign are expected this summer.

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