Airbus plans for around 2,500 flight test hours to achieve certification of the aircraft using five test aircraft.

MSN001 is the first test aircraft to fly, equipped with about 30 tons of test instrumentation. The aircraft is going to be used for basic performance tests in the first phase, opening the flight envelope to extremes including flutter and maximum dive tests relatively early in the program.

MSN003 will be the second aircraft to fly, and is scheduled to join the test campaign in early October. The aircraft will be used for performance testing, but will have the same level of instrumentation as MSN001, allowing Airbus to swap the two aircraft if needed.

The instrumentation is made up of more than 450 km of wiring, an engineer station and multiple computers to be able to record more than 5,000 different measurements. A water ballast system is also installed through a series of tanks. The water can be pumped around inflight to shift the center of gravity without having to land.

MSN002, the third aircraft to fly, will be the first with a passenger cabin installed. It is allocated for cabin, evacuation, air conditioning and systems test campaigns as well as early long flights. First flight is scheduled to take place in January 2014.

MSN004 will have much less instrumentation installed than MSN001 and MSN002 and will predominantly be used for avionics testing from February 2014. MSN005 is planned for route proving and ETOPS certification and is scheduled to start its program in April of 2014.

Airbus plans to retain only MSN001 as a permanent test aircraft. “We want to use the flight test aircraft like an airline would and train the processes,” says Executive Vice President and head of the A350XWB program Didier Evrard. For that purpose, the company is building a hangar for daily maintenance that is to be ready before the end of the year.

MSN001 was rolled-out in May, while MSN003 is currently in the final assembly line and MSN002 is expected to follow soon after.

Airbus is working with a total of 10 customers this year on their initial aircraft to ensure the production ramp up will be accomplished as soon as possible. The production rate is set at one A350 per month by the end of this year, going up to two aircraft per month on average in 2014 even before first delivery, which is planned for the second half of next year.

The production rate is scheduled to reach three aircraft a month by the end of 2014. Airbus ultimately plans to build 10 A350s per month four years after entry-into-service, the same amount it has reached on the A330 program and identical to Boeing’s provisions for the 787.