Airbus’ second A350 XWB flight test aircraft, MSN3, undertook lightning strike testing at Airbus' Clément Ader facility in Colomiers, France, in April 2013. (Picture © Airbus.)
Airbus’ second A350 XWB flight test aircraft, MSN3, undertook lightning strike testing at Airbus' Clément Ader facility in Colomiers, France, in April 2013. (Picture © Airbus.)

The A350 XWB is the first Airbus aircraft to be over 50 wt% composite materials. 

Composites (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) provides more electrical resistance than an aerostructure consisting mostly of metallics. To ensure the A350 XWB aerostructure manages lightning strikes safely, metallic foils are embedded in the aircraft’s composite panels. This increases the aerostructure’s electrical conductivity and protects harnesses with metallic conduits.

Metallic foils have already been used on the Airbus A380 rear fuselage section (the A380 is about 23% composite), but as the A350 XWB includes a higher percentage of composite materials, it is important to confirm that the foils provide adequate protection for systems and equipment.

Lightning strike testing

Airbus reports that the 'electromagnetic hazard' evaluations involved the second A350 XWB flight test aircraft (MSN3) to demonstrate necessary protection levels in case of lightning strikes while in flight. 

The testing lasted around three days and consisted of lightning strike simulations and follow-up measurements of induced voltage/current levels on selected harnesses. These evaluations use a low-level current injection rather than the actual electrical current level generated by a lightning strike, with the measured voltages and current then extrapolated to the real threat of 200,000 A.

Airbus says that testing will continue with similar but longer tests on the MSN4 aircraft in 2014, fulfilling a requirement for type certification of Airbus’ A350-900 version.

First flight

The Airbus A350 XWB is scheduled to make its first flight this summer. Launch customer Qatar Airways is expected to receive its first A350 in mid-2014.


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