A month after its maiden flight, the initial phase of the A380's flight campaign is well underway and making good progress.
It has already spent more than 55 hours in the air over the course of its first 13 flights. During these missions, the flight test personnel on-board and on the ground has been making an initial evaluation of the aircraft, analysing its handling characteristics and investigating its flight envelope. The flight envelope includes flying it at both its minimum speeds (close to stall) and maximum speeds (up to Mach 0.89) and at its highest altitude of 43,000 ft with different wing slat and flap settings, varying loads and in different conditions.
Feedback from the flights so far has been very positive and the data collected from them will be used to fine-tune the aerodynamics of the aircraft, in order to optimize its performance. Any adjustments made will then be introduced on all A380s coming off the production line.
After the successful start to the first phase of the campaign, the 85-strong flight-test team have begun to evaluate the A380's climb performance; tests which are carried out with only three of its four engines running. Other tests undertaken at this time include checking the aircraft's back-up systems (such as landing gear free fall) and an analysis of the engine calibration and performance.
There will be a short let-up in flight test programme in mid-June during the Paris Air Show where the A380 will be on display but the programme will restart in earnest immediately after with tests to complete the exploration of the A380's flight envelope. As the aircraft identification phase begins to come to an end, there will be a gradual progression towards systems testing, which is the next stage of flight testing.
The overall flight test campaign is anticipated to involve as many as 2,500 hours of test flights on a total of five development aircraft that will result in its certification with both Rolls Royce Trent 900 and Engine Alliance GP7200 engines.