Fatigue testing on the A380 started two months ahead of schedule today as part of the aircraft's certification programme.

The tests are conducted by IABG at jointly owned IABG and IMA's test laboratory in Dresden. They will artificially recreate 47,500 flight cycles, which corresponds to 25 years of service life. It will help study how the aircraft responds to various stresses over a long period of time and during different stages of its operations, such as taxiing on the runway, take-off, cruising and landing.

To obtain type certification, the A380 must attain 5,000 fatigue flight cycles. A full-scale A380 airframe is being used at a purpose-built hangar in Dresden, Germany for the 26 months the tests are expected to last, which is more than what is needed for certification.

During these tests, the aircraft will be pushed to its limits, with required changes and adaptations - if any - made to its design while in production, so it is always improved. Fatigue testing will simulate about 900 test flights a week. This means that a 16-hour flight can be simulated in just 11 minutes.

Charles Champion, Chief Operating Officer and Head of the A380 Programme, said that yet another significant A380 milestone had been achieved.

He said: "These tests are an important marker on the road to A380 type certification. They are commencing 2.5 months in advance of the former baseline planning, showing the high degree of commitment from everyone at Airbus in relation to this ambitious and innovative programme. This will allow much more testing to be performed before entry into service to the benefit of our customers."

To recreate the various stresses the aircraft will be under, a combination of loads will be put on the airframe and will be activated by 184 computer-operated hydraulic jacks. A special 1,800-tonne test rig with load introduction – known as "whiffle trees" - was built to carry out these tests in Dresden, Germany. Pneumatic loading facilities will also be used to pressurise the cabin. The pressure used, 0.6 bar, is similar to that used on board passenger flights.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.