Airbus flies Laminar-flow BLADE testbed

The Airbus’ A340 laminar-flow BLADE test demonstrator aircraft has made its successful maiden flight for Clean Sky project on the 26th September.

The aircraft, dubbed “Flight Lab”, took off from Tarbes in southern France at local time 11:00, and after a series of tests, it landed at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse. The overall flight time was 3hrs38mins.

The aircraft, Airbus A340-300 MSN001, is the First test aircraft in the world combining a transonic laminar wing profile with a standard aircraft internal primary structure.

A340 Laminar-flow-blade

The BLADE project – which stands for “Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe” – is being used to assess the feasibility of introducing the technology into commercial aviation. It aims to reduce an aircrafts ecological footprint by creating 50% reduction of wing friction and up to five percent lower CO2 emission.

Externally, the aircraft is fitted with two representative transonic laminar outer-wings, while the interior is fitted with specialist flight-test-instrumentation equipment. The extensive modifications to the A340-300 test-bed aircraft took place during the course of a 16-month working party in Tarbes, with the support of numerous industrial partners across Europe. Today’s first-flight marks the kick-off of the Blade flight-test campaign to explore the wing’s characteristics in flight.

The modifications to the A340-300 test-bed aircraft took 16-months and had the support of numerous industrial partners across Europe.

A340 Laminar-flow-blade in-flight

Engineer Phillipe Seve explained “We began by opening the flight envelope to check that the aircraft was handling correctly” adding “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.”

Teams from Airbus UK‘s facility at Broughton in North Wales were involved in getting the aircraft ready for testing. The Broughton site pioneers wing development throughout Airbus Commercial Aviation range.

A340 Laminar-flow-blade

Airbus says that there are hundreds of points on the wings to measure the waviness of the surface. This will help Airbus’ engineers ascertain its influence on the laminarity. This is the first time that Airbus has used such a testing method on an aircraft.

Airbus says a key goal of Blade is to be able 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.

You can follow the BLADE flights here

About Nick Harding 1960 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.