The A350 XWB development aircraft, MSN3, is in Bolivia for a series of flight tests at the high altitude airfields of Cochabamba and the capital La Paz. Cochabamba is approximately 8,300 feet above sea level, and at 13,300 La Paz is one of the highest airports in the world.
Operations at such high altitude airfields are particularly demanding on aircraft engines, Auxiliary Power Units (APU) and systems. The aim of these trials is to demonstrate and validate the full functionality of engines, systems, materials as well as to assess the overall aircraft behaviour under these extreme conditions. A number of take-offs with all engines operating and with simulated engine failures are being performed at each of the airfields to collect data on engine operating characteristics and validate the aircraft take-off performance. The autopilot behaviour will also be evaluated during automatic landings and go-arounds.
Till date the A350s in the Airbus test fleet have performed over 200 flights and 800 hours of testing. The test campaign call for about 2,500 flight testing hours with a total fleet of five aircraft. Flight testing is needed for the certification of the A350-900 by the European EASA and US FAA airworthiness authorities, prior to entry into service in Q4 2014.