The first Airbus A340-300 flight test aircraft, F-WWAI (msn 1), is flying again in a new role as a research testbed. The jet, now called the A340 Flight Lab, is being used for a project called BLADE (Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe) to test new methods of improving natural laminar flow. The A340’s outboard wing sections have been replaced with wing panels approximately 10m (32ft) long to represent the wing size of a short or medium-range airliner, for which Airbus deems laminar flow technology is best suited. The starboard panel was designed and produced by GKN Aerospace and the port panel by Saab.
Airbus said work to prepare the A340 for the testing spanned 16 months, and included integration of the laminar flow wing sections and the installation of a new system of sensors and instrumentation. These sensors are capable of collecting 2,750 dedicated measurements during the 150 hours of flight testing the A340 Flight Lab will undertake for the project. A team of ten Airbus pilots, test engineers and flight test engineers are involved in the testing, but the BLADE research involves 21 partners working through the Clean Sky initiative.
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