High temperatures perfect for stress check, says aviation company
Airbus chooses 'scorching' UAE desert for heat testing of new planes
When Airbus needed to stress test its latest airliner in "scorching temperatures" it looked no further than the Abu Dhabi desert.
With the mercury in the high forties, Al Ain International Airport proved to be the perfect environment.
The Airbus A350-1000 will need to withstand all manner of environmental pressures, including operating in the hottest and coldest temperatures. The single-deck, long-range, aircraft is scheduled to be ready later this year.
"The tests, which took place from 4 to 7 July, involved the aircraft undergoing extreme weather conditions at temperatures above 40 degrees celsius," Airbus said yesterday.
"The objective of the tests is to check systems behaviour with a focus on the cabin, including cooling performance on ground. The aircraft successfully cleared all the set parameters thus demonstrating its maturity and readiness to operate in scorching weather conditions."
Though snowstorms and ice can lead to airport shut downs, passengers would be hard-pressed to recall a flight cancelled due to hot weather - but it happens.
Last month, a heat spike in Arizona led to the cancellation of dozens of flights at Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport. Bombardier CRJ planes, often seen at regional hubs, cannot operate at more than 47-48 degrees celsius. Most Airbus and Boeing can operate at up to 52 degrees celsius, according to aviation industry reports, and were not affected.
"Airbus and Boeing do extensive testing on all their airplanes to ensure that they can fly from somewhere red-hot like Dubai and land in an ice-cold place like Iqaluit when it's winter," said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research in London.
"Because the GCC is very arid and dry, the reason we don’t see shut downs is because many airplanes are all Airbus and Boeing wide-body and they are designed to withstand heat and extreme temperatures. The same rings true for the smaller Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families.
"Regional jets are not as prolific in the GCC like they are in the US."
Mr Ahmad said engineers will often try to "break" key systems on the plane, to ensure it can withstand the strain. Along with Al Ain, manufacturers are likely to fly the test aircraft in the coldest and windiest places in the world.
"Other key tests include freezing the airplane overnight and attempting to open the cabin doors with no other instruments than the door handles and also starting up the engines from that cold status," he said.
"They’ll also test, stress, break and replace air conditioning systems to ensure their repeat-cycle use robustness capability as well as fly into airports where crosswinds of varying speeds can cause immense fuselage, engine and wing oscillations on take-off or landing.
"This is why air safety over the last 50 years has improved so much, that any accidents, which are thankfully so few and far between, sport more elements of human indecision or errors as opposed to there being a fundamental design flaw."