Chief production Airbus A400M military airlifter completes maiden flight

First structurally complete Airbus A350 XWB passenger jet continues ground tests.

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Airbus Military (Madrid, Spain) reported on March 6 that it had marked a key milestone in its quest to deliver the initial A400M military airlifter (photo below). The maiden flight of the first production aircraft, designated MSN7, began in Seville, Spain, and ended there successfully after a smooth 5-hr, 42-min trip. The French Air Force is the first customer scheduled to receive an A400M. The initial delivery is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.

In another first, Airbus (Toulouse, France) reported on Feb. 26 that the initial A350 XWB (MSN1), fitted with wings, had moved to its next phase of ground testing, from Roger Béteille A350 XWB FAL Station 30 to the Clément Ader area Station 18 in Toulouse (photo, top right). The plane is structurally complete, with installed winglets, belly fairing panels and main landing gear doors, and it recently completed a series of indoor ground tests. These included stability tests on movable elements, such as the rudder, elevators, ailerons and wing spoilers, as well as landing gear extraction and retraction tests. The next steps, which will take place outdoors at Station 18, will include fuel tank testing of tank levels, fuel flows, sealing and internal fuel-transfer functions; pressure testing of the fuselage; and radio equipment trials.

Airbus reported in late February that it had begun assembly of the third A350 XWB in Toulouse, as preparations continue for the next-generation jetliner’s upcoming first flight and certification campaign. MSN3 will be deployed for a variety of testing, including performance at high and medium altitudes, in cold and hot temperatures and on long-range flights. The initial assembly steps for MSN3 included installation of the jetliner’s 50m/164-ft long electrical harness for flight test measurements, which, along with a complement of electrical cabinets, forms an advanced “supercomputer” called METRO. This was followed by successful assembly of the fuselage sections at Station 50 on the final assembly line. The fuselage panel sections overlap by only 8 cm/3.1 inches; about 10,000 holes are drilled to mate the fuselage sections. MSN3 joins the MSN5000 aircraft at Toulouse, which is currently undergoing preparations for static testing in another hangar.

As part of the A350 XWB team, GE Aviation (Hamble-le-Rice, U.K.) reported on March 7 that it delivered its initial production wing fixed trailing edge components for MSN1. GE Aviation’s wing fixed trailing edge package is the largest production contract awarded in the company’s 75-year history, comprising more than 3,000 components that include structural composite panels and complex machined assemblies. GE Aviation will provide the wing fixed trailing edge for all three A350 XWB family members: A350-800, 900 and 1000. 

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