Airbus’ latest and largest airliner, the long range A340-600, was granted type certification today by the European Joint Aviation Authorities. This marks the culmination of an intensive certification campaign that involved three A340-600 aircraft accumulating 1,600 flight hours in more than 500 flights since April last year. The flight test results show that customer aspirations have been fully met and, in some cases, significantly exceeded.
“This is a major milestone in the completion of our renowned product line and takes our family concept a step further to offer even greater mission versatility within the Airbus fly-by-wire fleet,” said Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer No‘l Forgeard. “This achievement is a tribute to all those at Airbus, Rolls Royce and our suppliers who worked on the aircraft these last few years and we look forward to inaugurating the decades of in-flight satisfaction it will give our customers and operators.” The first aircraft will be delivered to Virgin Atlantic Airways in July.
The first A340-600 made its maiden flight on 23rd April 2001, the second, required for systems and autopilot trials, in June and the third, equipped with a full passenger cabin, joined the programme in September. The flight test campaign began with an exploration of the flight envelope and verification of the aircraft’s four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines and systems, which, in more than 5,000 hours of operation, have shown excellent reliability. Thereafter followed flights to test and refine flight-control laws, ensuring impeccable aircraft handling and near-identical characteristics with other Airbus aircraft - a key ingredient of Airbus’ unique and successful full flight operational commonality. Indeed, the A340-600 was granted the same type rating as the A340-300 in April.
To ensure complete operational and cabin maturity at entry into service, Airbus also performed a two-week Early Long Range flight programme in November with full Airbus passenger loads aboard. These were followed, in April, by the traditional “route-proving” trials, successfully completed with Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic crews. Flying to 17 major airports in just 14 days, the A340-600 respected a demanding schedule, on time, throughout. The trials also demonstrated the remarkable compatibility of the A340-600 with ground-handling equipment and airport infrastructure.
Throughout the certification programme, the test aircraft exhibited high levels of reliability and demonstrated higher than predicted takeoff and climb performance. The A340-600 will have appreciably lower maintenance costs than competing types and, when compared with its closest competitor carrying a similar payload, the A340-600 consumes typically 18 per cent less fuel per trip. The reduction in fuel burn, the low emission levels of the Trent 500 engines and exceptionally low noise levels will also make the A340-600 a favourite for all those engaged in minimising the environmental impact of air travel.
The A340-600 typically carries 380 passengers in a three-class layout over a distance of up to 7,500 nm/13,900 km. It was launched in December 1997 alongside its ultra-long range sibling, the A340-500, currently undergoing certification trials. Both are members of Airbus’ market leading A330/A340 Family, which has won more than 700 firm orders from 60 customers to date and currently has a 54 per cent market share with respect to competing models.
A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.