First flight of the laminar test airliner A340-300 MSN001

Airbus flew its A340-300 prototype in a new role today, as a test bed for investigating the friction reducing potential of laminar flow wings.

The technology could cut airflow friction by a wing in half and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by five percent.

In its statement Airbus said the laminar-flow “BLADE” test demonstrator aircraft (A340-300 MSN001) has made its successful maiden flight for the EU-sponsored Clean Sky “Blade” project. The aircraft, dubbed “Flight Lab”, took off from the Tarbes aerodrome in southern France at local time 11:00, and after a series of successful tests it landed at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse Blagnac after being airborne for three hours 38 minutes.

The BLADE project – which stands for “Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe” – will assess the feasibility of introducing the technology for commercial aviation. Flight Lab is the first test aircraft in the world to combine a transonic laminar wing profile with a true internal primary structure.

On the outside the aircraft is fitted with two representative transonic laminar outer-wings, while inside the cabin a highly complex specialist flight-test-instrumentation (FTI) station has been installed.

“We began by opening the flight envelope to check that the aircraft was handling correctly,” explains Airbus Flight-Test Engineer, Philippe Seve, who was on board the flight. “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.”

Blade’s key goal to measure the tolerances and imperfections which can be present and still sustain laminarity. To this end, Airbus will simulate every type of imperfection in a controlled manner, so that at the end of the campaign the tolerances for building a laminar wing will be fully known. The flight Lab will perform around 150 flight hours in the coming months.

One of the blades seen closer up
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