Moments after emerging from the cockpit of the Airbus A380 after its successful first flight, chief test pilot Jacques Rosay said flying the world’s biggest passenger jet had been “like handling a bicycle.”
As captain for the take-off and the initial part of the test flight, he lavished praise on the aircraft for its performance: “This aircraft is very, very easy to fly. Any Airbus pilot will feel immediately at ease with this aircraft, a pure member of the Airbus family.”
He described the take-off as “totally perfect” and paid tribute to the Airbus designers and the customer pilots who worked together to design the cockpit. “The cockpit makes the work for the crew easier and safer. It’s an excellent cockpit - and an excellent aircraft.”
Other members of the flight test crew also praised the aircraft’s performance. Claude Lelaie, senior vice president flight division at Airbus, who took over the captaincy for the second part of the test flight including the landing, said: “It was a great pleasure to perform this first flight on this marvellous aircraft.”
The first A380 to take to the air landed at Blagnac international airport in Toulouse, France at 14.23 local time (12.23h GMT) after successfully completing a first flight that lasted three hours and 54 minutes. The A380’s first flight was jointly captained by Claude Lelaie, Senior Vice President Flight Division, and by Chief Test pilot and Vice President Jacques Rosay. The other crew members were Fernando Alonso, Vice President Flight Division, Flight Test Engineering who led a team of two other flight test engineers, Jacky Joye and Manfred Birnfeld, and test flight engineer Gérard Desbois. Carrying the registration F-WWOW, the aircraft is powered by four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines.
After landing, the crew confirmed that the new aircraft and engines had handled as anticipated.
Claude Lelaie commented: “We had a very successful first flight and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. There are of course a lot of things to be done, but after this first experience, we now really sense the potential of this magnificent machine. And even on the ground, as already felt during the initial ground tests, the A380 handles as easily as any other aircraft. Also, the systems and the Rolls Royce engines performed satisfactorily.” And Jacques Rosay added: “Within the first minutes of the flight, we were impressed by the ease of handling of the aircraft which was in line with what we had felt in the simulator. We have no doubt any Airbus pilot would feel immediately at home in the A380; it is a true member of the Airbus aircraft family. We could also appreciate that the new features in the cockpit, including interactivity, vertical display, new interfaces that make the work of the crew very easy and efficient and I want to thank the customer airline pilots who have greatly contributed to this design.”
For its first flight, the A380 took off at a weight of 421 tonnes / 928.300 lbs, the highest ever of any civil airliner to date. During the flight, which took the aircraft around South West France, the six crew members explored the aircraft’s flight envelope as expected. They tested the A380’s handling using both direct and normal flight control laws with the landing gear up and down, and with all flaps’ and slats’ settings during the part of the flight at cruise altitude. They made an initial evaluation of the comfort levels in both the main and upper decks, confirming that the cabin was very quiet and the ride smooth.
This maiden voyage, during which all primary flight test objectives were met, marks the beginning of a rigorous test flight campaign involving five A380s, including one for the certification of the Engine Alliance GP7200 engine on the A380, and some 2,500 flight hours. It will culminate in the aircraft’s certification followed by its entry into airline service in the second half of 2006 with first operator Singapore Airlines. The scope and rigour of the A380 ground and flight test programme should also prepare for a smooth entry into service.