Airbus Testing its First Composite-Materials Airframe

The European aviation giant is keeping mum on when the A350 might take to the air for the first time, but the Paris Air Show begins in little more than a week. That’s got everyone in the aerospace industrywondering if the A350-XWB will make an appearance above one of the biggest stages in aviation. The company’s chief rival, Boeing, will be performing at the airshow  with the composite 787 Dreamliner, so it’s hard to see Airbus letting Boeing take the limelight at the industry’s most important event.

During take off, the airplane’s flight computers will be turned off, with controls operating in the “direct law” mode. Because the A350-XWB is, like the 787 Dreamliner, a fly-by-wire aircraft, a computer is always involved in transmitting control stick forces to the control surfaces. But Airbus uses several different “laws” that engage different computers and software to provide varying levels of assistance or automation during flight. In “direct law” mode there is no “buffer” between the pilot and the control services, meaning the computer will do exactly what the pilot commands.

The crew expects to climb to around 10,000 feet and about 200 knots (230 mph), at which point it will change the flap configuration and raise the landing gear. These changes are usually made immediately after take off in a normal flight, but during a first flight, the goal is usually not to change anything in the first few minutes until the pilots are confident in the basic flying qualities.