A new £16m Airbus A350XWB landing gear system test facility in the company's Filton site was opened by the Duke of York on Tuesday.
Airbus says the Fuel Systems Test Facility, the first of its kind in the world, will provide increased efficiency, flexibility and unmatched capability for design and test of fuel systems for both current and future aircraft programmes.
Testing recently began at the facility and work is being undertaken on the new A400M military airlifter aircraft and the recently-launched A350, and continues on specific areas of the A380 fuel system. Tests are also being conducted to study improvements in fuel system simulation and modelling and fuel tank inerting as well as looking at new and emerging technologies.
Design and supply of fuel systems is a key responsibility of Airbus in the UK, complementing its role as the centre for wing design (with the wings having a dual role as the main fuel tanks).
Challenges in fuel systems design include ensuring ground staff can carry out safe, rapid, ergonomic and accurate refuelling; reliably pumping fuel to the engines; redistribution of the fuel around the aircraft tanks during flight to achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency and performance; and ensuring clear, reliable and comprehensive data is available to pilots on the flight-deck.
Gordon McConnell, senior vice president engineering for Airbus in the UK said: “This investment will permit us to carry out integrated testing of the avionics computers and the fluid mechanical systems. It will also help to reduce the time to market, ensuring the maturity of fuel systems on delivery to the customer. Testing in this comprehensive facility will allow multi-disciplinary teams, both across Airbus and within external partners and suppliers, to work together on new research and development.”
The new 5,000 m2 test facility comprises three main sections: a building housing an internal test area (50 m x 20 m), avionics benches, 50m x 12m of office space and the facility’s control room monitoring operations by CCTV. Outside is a large roofed, un-walled, fuel test area (50 m x 50 m) which accommodates the piping, pumps and associated systems required for large scale testing of dedicated test rigs; there is also a ‘fuel services area’ where the fuel is stored and prepared, to replicate changes and processing during actual flight conditions.
The facility can accommodate up to 78,000 litres of fuel – around a quarter of the fuel capacity of the 555 seat A380 (310,000 litres) and over three times that of an Airbus single aisle aircraft (24,000 litres).
The facility meets all of the latest, most stringent health and safety and environmental standards whilst allowing various ground and flight conditions to be simulated on the individual test rigs – including:
• the effects of altitude up to 50,000 feet;
• fuel delivery rates up to 6,000 litres per minute at pressures up to 85 psi;
• heating and cooling the fuel in a 110 degree Centigrade temperature range (between +55 and ?55 degrees Centigrade)
• four pumps replicate engine feed systems and engine speed.
Commenting on the opening of the Airbus facility, Ian Godden, Chairman of A|D|S the UK’s aerospace, defence and security trade organisation, said:
“The UK is number one in Europe in aerospace and second only to the US globally. The sector employs over 100,000 people and last year generated over £22 billion to the UK economy. This new development by Airbus illustrates important but often unsung aspects of British industry – innovation, prominent UK contributions to global programmes and collaboration by several UK-based, world-leading companies.”
“Not only is this development significant economically as part of the UK’s commitment to the hugely popular A350XWB programme but it is environmentally-friendly as well. It is a testament to the qualities present throughout the UK aerospace sector that continues to deliver for the benefit of the country.”