A new 24 million Euro (16 million) test facility at Airbus' Filton, UK site is being opened today by His Royal Highness the Duke of York, during a visit to Bristol in his role as UK Special Representative for Trade and Investment. The Airbus Fuel Systems Test Facility, the first of its kind in the world, is providing increased efficiency, flexibility and unmatched capability for design and test of fuel systems for both current and future aircraft programmes.

Testing recently began at the facility and work is being undertaken on the new A400M military airlifter aircraft and the recently-launched A350, and continues on specific areas of the A380 fuel system. Tests are also being conducted to study improvements in fuel system simulation and modelling and fuel tank inerting as well as looking at new and emerging technologies.

Design and supply of fuel systems is a key responsibility of Airbus in the UK, complementing its role as the centre for wing design (with the wings having a dual role as the main fuel tanks). Fuel system design ensures that the fuel management and operations are safe, efficient, reliable and offer the best operational performance for the aircraft and the customer.

Challenges in fuel systems design include ensuring ground staff can carry out safe, rapid, ergonomic and accurate refuelling; reliably pumping fuel to the engines; redistribution of the fuel around the aircraft tanks during flight to achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency and performance; and ensuring clear, reliable and comprehensive data is available to pilots on the flight-deck.

Gordon McConnell, Senior Vice President Engineering for Airbus in the UK said: "This investment will permit us to carry out integrated testing of the avionics computers and the fluid mechanical systems. It will also help to reduce the time to market, ensuring the maturity of fuel systems on delivery to the customer. Testing in this comprehensive facility will allow multi-disciplinary teams, both across Airbus and within external partners and suppliers, to work together on new research and development."

The new 5,000 m2 test facility comprises three main sections: a building housing an internal test area (50 m x 20 m), avionics benches, 50m x 12m of office space and the facility's control room monitoring operations by CCTV. Outside is a large roofed, un-walled, fuel test area (50 m x 50 m) which accommodates the piping, pumps and associated systems required for large scale testing of dedicated test rigs; there is also a 'fuel services area' where the fuel is stored and prepared, to replicate changes and processing during actual flight conditions.

The facility can accommodate up to 78,000 litres of fuel - around a quarter of the fuel capacity of the 555 seat A380 (310,000 litres) and over three times that of an Airbus single aisle aircraft (24,000 litres).

The facility meets all of the latest, most stringent health and safety and environmental standards whilst allowing various ground and flight conditions to be simulated on the individual test rigs - including:

the effects of altitude up to 50,000 feet;
fuel delivery rates up to 6,000 litres per minute at pressures up to 85 psi;
heating and cooling the fuel in a 110 degree Centigrade temperature range (between +55 and 55 degrees Centigrade)
four pumps replicate engine feed systems and engine speed.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.