back to article Airbus flies new plane for the first time

Airbus has successfully flown a new commercial jet model, with the first A350-1000 taking to the skies over Toulouse on Thursday. The A350-1000 is the new member of the A350 program, Airbus' attempt to offer a long-haul twin-engine jet a little larger and rather more modern than its A330 range, and also cheaper to operate than …

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First Flight Challenges

There rarely seem to be any challenges these days.

In the old days the test pilots would strap themselves in, light the fires and take the aircraft up for a quick circuit and get it back down ASAP before one of the many items that are clearly wrong / broken / rattling / wobbling / leaking / overheating bring it down in a smoking ruin of bent, shattered and charred aluminium. A lifetime of excitement compressed into 5 minutes of sheer exhilaration, possibly ending in some parachute time.

Nowadays it's normal to be able to take the plane up for hours on the first flight and fully explore the flight envelope. One wonders what the remainder of the flight test campaign is really for these days.

Of course, this is a good thing.

Anyway, congrats to Airbus and the wider aviation community for getting it right so often. It's become so normal that we moan about delays.

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Devil

Re: First Flight Challenges

This is just an extended version of the existing model. Not an entirely new plane. So having a rather dull first flight is not so surprising.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

I know, but the first flight of the first A350 was just as uneventful. And the A330. And pretty much everything else that has been flown in recent decades.

Back in the old days it was definitely more exciting. Bill Parks, Lockheed's legendary test pilot, demanded and got extra (extra! Ordinary danger money was already part of the package) danger money for taking Have Blue (the F117 prototype) up for the first time it was such a ramshackle assemblage of second hand junk. Hugely successful though.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

wasn't reused components so much as Pave Blue (and F117) are so un-aerodynamic the electronics are essential to keeping the craft the right way up. That the flight control and design worked well speaks volumes about _real_ engineers pushing the boundaries of current practice but not leaping into unknown.. It also suggests that the source of the endless mirth and mockery of the flying flimflam AKA F35, has too much clever code instead of much developed code.. Now if I could just remember the pithy appellation used about the F35 another commentard used I would be a little less depressed.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

shattered and charred aluminium

Pah! I laugh in scorn at your aluminium, puny human: real planes are made from plywood! :-)

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Pint

Re: First Flight Challenges

" A lifetime of excitement compressed into 5 minutes of sheer exhilaration," That reminds me of Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown who sadly passed away earlier this year. He was a "British Royal Navy officer and test pilot who flew 487 different types of aircraft, more than anyone else in history. He was also the most-decorated pilot in the history of the Royal Navy."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Brown_(pilot)

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Re: First Flight Challenges

real planes are made from plywood!

Indeed. But (Mr Clark) if you're still out in Germany, some of them may not be as favourably remembered as they are on this side of the channel.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Pah!! Plywood; modern day composite shite..., Real aeroplanes were made from Ash planks recycled piano wire and grannys old linen sheets...

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Def
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Coat

Re: First Flight Challenges

Pah! I laugh in scorn at your aluminium, puny human: real planes are made from plywood! :-)

Oh...

*Looks at half carved granite wing in the garden*

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Go

Re: First Flight Challenges

> take the plane up for hours on the first flight and fully explore the flight envelope

Actually, that seemed to be rather a conservative first flight, and nowhere near exploring the boundaries of the flight envelope. The Flightradar24 link shows the plane at about 10,000 ft and a groundspeed of around 200 kt for the majority of the flight, only on the last couple of legs did the throttles get opened a bit, up to 400 kt, and there was a brief excursion to around 28,000 ft.

Contrary to statements in The Fine Article, I saw no evidence of looping. Now that would have been an exciting first flight!

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Seeing as it was flying around near the Pyrenees, going up to 28,000 ft would have been advisable as most of the big peaks are 10,000-11,000 ft!

Phil.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

>There rarely seem to be any challenges these days.

TBH, I should not be answering, because I have not rid systemd off my system* .... but this is outrageous in so many respects ....

You sound like one of the young, inexperienced, aviation engineers that take for granted what their ancestors have discovered in the field .... right until they discover that one of the innovations has the inverse effect of what they thought.

Aviation is still, TO THIS VERY DAY, very difficult a subject ... seriously, something as simple as 'lift' still has controversies, we are not quite sure what provides lift ... these aircraft a very sophisticated, VERY sophisticated, so please ... are you a pilot or do you run IE or systemd ? I think, imho, you should step back and look at the whole picture ...

One proof, the A330, mentioned in this very article, a mate's father .... a mate, right (honestly), now watch what you or anybody else say, DIED in a test flight of the A330, his "last" action was to save the newly built factory ... just saying ... this was 1990's and everybody thought just as you back then ... look at Appollo 13 ... this stuff is hard, in real life, easy for you from your computer keyboard god-knows-where, for sure ...

* See my comment history

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Pah! I laugh in scorn at your aluminium, puny human: real planes are made from plywood! :-)

Pah - I raise you balsa and treated paper

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Depends on how much new is being done with the design. Some experimental and military designs have nerve-wracking first flights. Given that most commercial designs are aerodynamically conservative and are fairly conservative designs overall, these flights should be relatively boring. If the flight is not relatively boring then there is serious design problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: First Flight Challenges

Pah! I laugh in scorn at your plywood, puny human: real planes are made from wood, canvas and dope!

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Re: First Flight Challenges

It's great that things go wrong so few times these days, but there's always risk and things can still go tragically wrong like they did two years ago when four Airbus employees were killed testing the A400M..

It takes plenty of stones to test a new aircraft, and the flying punters owe their safety to a lot of hard work and care from everyone in the aviation industry.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

"if you're still out in Germany, some of them may not be as favourably remembered as they are on this side of the channel."

Maybe, but I think Herman Goering was secretly a fan of British wooden planes...

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Several of the tests involve loading til it breaks... Then repair, and do it again.

This requires a full test aircraft that can be used to demonstrate both safety AND repair-ability.

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"but the first flight of the first A350 was just as uneventful. And the A330."

Several things have helped, many of them IT related.

AFAIK all bit aircraft will be done on CAD systems and they can do automatic clearance and fit checking, Part of the original purpose of rollouts was to find what had not been done right and "shim" it together/apart as needed.

The mfg by "hogging out" large lumps of alloy or laying up large pieces of composite eliminates a shedload of fasteners and their accumulation of tolerance IE all the little bits being slightly out adding up to a whole part that's a lot out.

CFD (certainly below M1) is pretty good so any suspect features that may make handling difficult can be tested and either redesigned or flight rules adjusted so they are not a hazard (at least in early testing).

This results in generally much less drama with new types.

However you can get new problems as well. Airbus had issues when their 2 design centres had different versions of the same CAD SW. IIRC the datum points (where exactly is "0" in the X, Y, Z dimensions relative to each drawing) was just a bit out. This caused months of delay.

Possibly the ultimate case of "More haste, less speed." (-:

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Re: First Flight Challenges

"Indeed. But (Mr Clark) if you're still out in Germany, some of them may not be as favourably remembered as they are on this side of the channel."

I don't know, Hermann von Goering was very complimentary about them.

Basically, carbon fibre and kevlar composite is just improved designer plywood. Carbon chains in a flexible polymer matrix. We've just helped natural selection on quite a bit. Grass even includes silica particles in its matrix.

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Flame

Re: First Flight Challenges

"Pah! I laugh in scorn at your aluminium, puny human: real planes are made from plywood! :-

Rubbish!

REAL planes are made of second hand bicycle bits and lots of canvas doped with highly inflammable lacquer.

REAL aero engines have wooden spinny bits on the front and highly exciting operating characteristics.

See icon >>

Pah, Pah.

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JLV
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Coat

Re: First Flight Challenges

Oh, I dunno. If you average in the F35's reliability with all the others you'd see we haven't progressed quite as much.

I know, that's a bit like a MS rant in the midst of a Linux article - not that we ever have those - my coat.

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Anonymous Coward

Grass even includes silica particles in its matrix.

Not the grass I smoke.

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Vic

Re: First Flight Challenges

In the old days the test pilots would strap themselves in, light the fires and take the aircraft up for a quick circuit

The short-lived ones did. "Kick the tyres and light the fires" was one motto often used, and it is explicitly called out by Winkle Brown as a poor attitude. He attributed most of his success as a TP to *not* subscribing to that attitude...

One wonders what the remainder of the flight test campaign is really for these days.

There are three main tasks, AIUI:

  • Testing new designs to ensure they are fit for real operation
  • Testing rebuilt aircraft to ensure they have been put back together properly
  • Flying accident profiles to determine what happened

I have friends who do or have done all of these :-)

Vic.

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Re: First Flight Challenges

Mosquito anyone? ;-)

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Re: First Flight Challenges

The X15 gets my nod for fearless test pilots. The whole shebang could have blown at any second, it leaked, the avionics were naff, the ejector seat was "probably work up to a speed, after that better to be blown up". It had 3 control systems depending on your speed, each with a different joystick and "throttle" and "forward" headrest for deceleration! More over, many of its pilots instantly qualified as astronauts based on height achieved. It still holds the record for fastest manned powered aircraft.

remarkable little spaceplane.

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Holmes

Re: First Flight Challenges

Not just first flights - Getting you to your holiday destination is a miracle of co-ordination of which the (immensely complicated) aircraft is just a part.

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Anonymous Coward

Wake me up when Concorde returns.

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The A380 was quite exciting, but it turning out to be a gamble that hasn't paid off, Dreamliner turned out to be the better strategy.

The A350 is going to be very important.

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I think it's a little too early to judge the A380. Sales have been disappointing but not bad, all things considered and the markets for which it's really suitable are still growing: pilgrimages to Mecca from around the world. But for Airbus it was also the test bed of many of the techniques that it's now using in things like the A350. And, while the 787 is selling well, it had so many problems that I reckon the financials are on a par.

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Coat

"pilgrimages to Mecca from around the world". I wonder if the insurance premium goes up if your planes are packed full of devout Muslims on the Hajj? Also, what do you do with the planes for the rest of the year? Fly crippled Catholics to Lourdes? I pretty sure that Hindus are meant to walk to the Kumbh Mela. All that said, I think that you're onto something. Pilgrim Airways could have some mileage in it. Literally. Arsenal have Emirates on their shirts, Argyle are screaming out for sponsorship!

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Anonymous Coward

Wake me up when Concorde returns.

Yes, that defined quite an era. I was glad I was working in Bristol when it made its last flight - everyone in the buildings turned out for its last flight (well, OK, we had the PA system announce it was inbound, but still :) ).

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RPF

They sure should. More than one has been lost to people making camp-fires (!!!!!) in the cabin.......

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" all things considered and the markets for which it's really suitable are still growing: pilgrimages to Mecca from around the world"

There's a certain sad irony in the cutting edge science and technology used to design and build the aircraft ultimately allowing sheeple to walk around a black box in circles praying to their invisible sky fairy. Perhaps the plane could just loop around it instead a few times and save them the trouble of landing?

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Wake me up when Concorde returns.

Ah Yes,

Remember as a kid playing outside on the northern edge of Swindon.

Fairford was a good few miles away but we could hear the roar of the afterburners when it took off and before we could actually get a glimpse of it if it ever headed our way.

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Angel

Knock in Ireland

has an international airport, the fourth largest in Eire. It's there to handle the half-million or so Catholic pilgrims who visit the nearby shrine every year. Religion is big business in the travel industry.

Oh, and Lourdes? From the Wiki article on the airport at Knock:

"On 1 June 2003, hundreds of people gathered to view an Air Atlanta Icelandic Boeing 747 land with 500 returning pilgrims from Lourdes."

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You didn't know Concorde was coming until the PA system announced its approach? That building must have had some seriously impressive soundproofing.

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Coat

Re: Knock in Ireland

Robert, is that the Holy Stone of Clonrichert? The class two relic that got inserted into Bishop Facks? I think that would be an ecumenical matter.

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Re: Wake me up when Concorde returns.

>Fairford was a good few miles away

There's a Heathrow approach corridor about five miles south of the M4. You could always hear Concorde inbound at least five miles either side of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Depends on whether the pilgrim are Shia or Sunni methinks

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Not as silly as me flying half way around the world in an aircraft stuffed full of the latest communications technology - in order to sit in a meeting while somebody shows me a Powerpoint presentation.

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Re: Wake me up when Concorde returns.

Yep. It seemed to fly right over Arkwright Rd in Reading.

Had two flights on IMHO the most beautiful jet ever made but both were from JFK to London.

The kick from the afterburners was something wonderful to experience.

When the Captain announced ' Ladies and Gentlemen, we are currently flying at 600mph. We are about to go supersonic", everyone stopped what they were doing and watched the mach meter. Some americal 1ft timers would whoop and holler when it ticked over the Mach 1.0.

Flying these days is pretty boring

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Anonymous Coward

You didn't know Concorde was coming until the PA system announced its approach? That building must have had some seriously impressive soundproofing.

Hey, I did some fun work there, but I'm not allowed to tell you about it (yes, it was that site). Also, the noise doesn't travel much AHEAD of the plane, so if you want to see it approach you do need some advance notice.

I agree with you that, at the altitude it flew in it was rather hard to miss that it had passed, though :).

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Since the Concorde could travel faster than sound, you wouldn't hear it until after it arrived - thus missing the arrival.

In reality, it only traveled supersonic over oceans...

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Paris Hilton

The last line of Animal Farm was about Stalinism, not flyover country.

(Which are just being talked about when someone needs voters for some establishment harpie or bodies for some war in foreign lands, otherwise being the butt of "liberal" disdain, it's just sad)

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Pint

Re: Knock in Ireland

YES!

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Vic

Wake me up when Concorde returns.

There is a plan. Don't know if it will come to anything...

Vic.

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Vic

Re: Wake me up when Concorde returns.

Yep. It seemed to fly right over Arkwright Rd in Reading.

That's roughly where the bottom of the LTMA drops to 3500ft, so you're likely to notice...

Vic.

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