Flying the BLADE—Airbus’ Flight Lab A340

Earlier today, the Airbus’ A340 “BLADE” test demonstrator aircraft conducted its first flight for the Clean Sky “Blade” project. Sponsored by the European Union, the the project is examining the commercial feasibility of using a laminar wing. For the Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe, Airbus is once again putting A340 MSN 001 into service.

How to Track the BLADE

Airbus A340 MSN 001 Flight Lab

Follow A340 MSN 001 with registration F-WWAI. The aircraft is expected to conduct 150 hours of flight tests as part of the BLADE program.

The BLADE’s First Flight

The first flight of the BLADE A340.

The aircraft, now dubbed ‘Flight Lab’, is the first test aircraft in the world combining a transonic laminar wing profile with a standard aircraft internal primary structure. The goal of the tests are to bring a 50% reduction of wing friction and through that reduction in friction a decrease in CO2 emissions of up to five percent.

Speed and Altitude Graph from the first BLADE flight

Speaking of today’s first flight, Airbus Flight-Test Engineer, Philippe Seve said, “We began by opening the flight envelope to check that the aircraft was handling correctly. We achieved our objective to fly at the design Mach number, at a reasonable altitude and check everything was fine. We also checked that the FTI was working as expected, to identify further fine-tuning for the next flights.”

Over 16 months of work at Tarbes, the aircraft was fitted with two representative transonic laminar outer-wings and a host of test instrumentation inside the fuselage. Airbus has also installed hundreds of sensors on the wing to measure the waviness of the surface. These instruments will help engineers determine ithe waviness’ influence on the laminarity. Airbus has also installed infrared cameras on the fin pod of the A340 to measure wing temperature.

A close-up view of the underside of the laminar wing

Other Use as a Testbed

Among other missions A340 MSN 001 has performed, the aircraft served as a flying test bed for the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine, which powers the A380.

Airbus A340 MSN 001 carrying the Rolls Royce Trent 900 in the number 2 position

 

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