The first flight-test aircraft, MSN001, as of today had accumulated 92 flights and more than 400 flight hours, while MSN003, the second flight-test aircraft, had completed 15 flights and close to 100 flight hours. Following the completion of minimum unstick speed tests (VMU, the slowest speed at which the aircraft will still take off), Airbus is preparing for icing tests with simulated ice-shapes with MSN1 in coming days. Later, but targeted before end of the year, the icing test with natural ice will be performed, although the exact timing and location largely depends on the weather.
Artificial ice shapes on the A380 prototype
These first tests will be flying maneuvers to evaluate the handling and stall characteristics as if ice were forming on the A350′s wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers. However, flight test crews aren’t out searching for natural icing conditions yet. The MSN1 prototype is being fitted with artificial ice-shapes.
Simulated ice shapes on the 787 5th prototype ZA005 Aug/2010
Basically what Airbus wants is to be able to simulate the worst case icing conditions on the aircraft with ice shapes. Flight test is all about the envelope conditions, so Airbus will be testing within that envelope and get ice buildup on the airplane. But the ice shapes allow test engineers to know they are at that end condition, otherwise it’s very difficult to measure what’s happening on the wing during the flight. Ice shapes are primarily foam-epoxy build-up that can be taken off later. Airbus will do performance take-off and landing with those ice shapes on.
Based on the article “Airbus Sets A350-900 Service Entry Target, Expands Production Capacity” published in Aviationweek