With new Airbus and Boeing twinjets taking center stage at the Singapore Airshow and huge untapped market potential in the region, airlines and would-be customers are paying more attention than usual to progress on the A350-900 and 787-9 flight-test programs.

The Singapore show comes as both enter key phases of their respective certification campaigns. The A350 effort is going much better than expected, says Fernando Alonso, Airbus senior vice president for flight and integration tests. The two test aircraft flying are accumulating around 100 flight hours each per month. “In previous programs, we did around 50-55 hours per aircraft and month,” Alonso says.

Airbus brought MSN3, the second test aircraft, to the air show here, where it participated in the flying display for the first time. MSN1 and MSN3 had logged a combined 1,025 flight hours and 505 cycles as of Feb. 10. That puts the A350 close to halfway through its planned test program, which is aimed at a cumulative total of around 2,500 hr. Airbus plans to deliver the first aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2014 to Qatar Airways.

Most of the work to date (669 hr. and 382 cycles) has been done by MSN1. The first A350 to fly is currently on the ground for several weeks for previously planned software and systems upgrades, while MSN3 has undergone hot-and-high and cold-weather trials in Bolivia and Canada. The aircraft made a stop in Doha for a presentation at Qatar Airways, where two of the airline's pilots flew it, before coming to Singapore. Two Singapore Airlines pilots were allowed to fly the A350 just before the opening of the show. MSN3 was due to return to Toulouse Feb. 13 after a flight scheduled to last 14.5 hr., its longest yet.

According to Alonso, Airbus built contingencies into the schedule in case of difficulties, but these were not required. Because he expects a larger number of requests for late modifications, he has “no hope,” however, that the certification and test program can be accelerated. On the other hand, he is very confident that entry into service will not be delayed. “We have taken a lot of risk out of the program,” he notes. Two more test aircraft, MSN2 and MSN4, are going to fly before the end of February, MSN2 with the first full cabin installed. MSN5 is planned to fly in May.

All the configurations of the aircraft—flaps and slats settings for various flight phases among others—are now defined and frozen. Certification testing involving airworthiness authorities has begun. Following the Bolivia and Canada trials, the A350 will undergo another round of extreme temperature tests in May at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Fla. The hangar, which will be cooled to -40C (-40F) and heated to +45 C, has been used by many previous programs including the 787 most recently.

Thanks to Qatar Airways, visitors to the Singapore Airshow also had the first opportunity to see the 787 alongside its arch-rival. The Doha-based carrier, which from later this year will operate both models, is the first airline to display a 787-8 here. With nine 787s already delivered and 51 more on order, Qatar flies the Boeing twinjet on routes to Europe and the Middle East, and from March will fly the type to Singapore as the fleet expands.

Boeing, meanwhile, continues to advance rapidly with flight tests of the 787-9, the first of two stretch derivatives in development. “We are progressing through the test program at a rate as good or better than we expected,” says Boeing's vice president for airplane development, Scott Fancher. Both General Electric- and Rolls-Royce-powered versions are now into full certification flight tests following FAA type inspection authorization (TIA) approval. “We had multiple TIA updates on the 787 and 747-8, and the fact the first TIA gives us approval to completion of certification indicates the aircraft were fully configured.”

The first 787-9, a Rolls Trent 1000-powered aircraft dubbed ZB001, is undergoing takeoff performance tests at the 15,000-ft.-long main runway at Edwards AFB, Calif. A second 787-9, ZB002, is being used to test the auto-land system. ZB021, a GEnx-1B-powered aircraft that joined the flight-test program in November, is conducting performance landing and brake work at Edwards after performing rejected-takeoff trials on a wet runway in Roswell, N.M.

In all, five aircraft will be involved in the program. The fourth and fifth 787-9s will be production aircraft with full interiors with ZB197, an aircraft destined ultimately for All Nippon Airways.

Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST to watch Guy Norris discuss key A350 design features in a walk-around at the Singapore Airshow, or go to AviationWeek.com/singapore

Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST to watch Airbus Chief Test Pilot Peter Chandler discuss the A350 test program with Aviation Week at the Singapore Airshow, or go to AviationWeek.com/singapore