Airbus and with its subcontractor Industrieanlagen Betriebsgesellschaft (IABG), a company specialized in industrial and aerospace testing facilities, are currently making preparations for the most extensive fatigue tests worldwide on a commercial aircraft. For this purpose, five sections of the new Airbus A380 will be shipped from Airbus in Hamburg to Dresden, Germany on 11 September. The structure will then be assembled and integrated in the IABG test facility where 47,500 flights will be simulated to test the fatigue strength of the A380.

At one-week intervals, three fuselage sections and two wings of the new Airbus A380 will be moved upstream by barge on the river Elbe from Hamburg to Dresden. Each of the five convoys will travel at an average speed of eight kilometers per hour, which means it will take approximately two weeks until all the components arrive in Dresden. The vertical tail plane, engines, onboard electronics and other parts and systems of the aircraft are not required for the tests. With more than 40 bridges to pass under on the 570 kilometers long route, the journey will be a special challenge for the captains of the five barges.

Once in Dresden, the sections will be hoisted up by one of the biggest cranes in Europe from the river Elbe. They will then be lowered onto a special vehicle that will take the components by road to the test facility near Dresden’s airport. Beginning of October at the latest, the last barge will arrive on the river bank in Dresden.

As soon as the A380 sections arrive at IABG they will be assembled by an Airbus team. IABG will then complete the test setup and try out the test facility, which will be completed around August 2005. The fatigue tests will start in September 2005 and will last nearly 26 months. This corresponds to an expected life time of approximately 25 years for an A380 in airline operation. After 5,000 flight simulations, the airlines will be able to put the A380 into regular service in 2006. The tests will show how the structure of the aircraft reacts to years or decades of service.

Airbus commissioned IABG to carry out the fatigue tests for the A380 in late 2002. This high-tech company from Ottobrunn near Munich has more than forty years of experience in this field. Together with its partner company, IMA GmbH in Dresden, IABG erected the large test centre near the Dresden airport specifically for the A380 tests.

The A380 is the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft worldwide and the first to accommodate two full passenger decks. The basic version will seat 555 passengers and have a range of 15,000 kilometers. Compared to the largest commercial airliners currently on the market, the operating costs of the A380 will be lower by up to 20 percent. The current order volume comprises 139 firm orders and commitments.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.