The first Airbus A350-1000, which was
to launch operator Qatar Airways in February, is equipped with a
new safety feature that will now be standard across all
Called the automated emergency descent, or AED, the
system engages the aircraft’s autopilot function to automatically
and quickly bring the aircraft to a lower, safer altitude in the
event of in-flight cabin depressurisation.
events are extremely rare,” said Yann Besse, an autopilot
laboratory test team engineer for Airbus. “Our goal was a simple
system that provides significant workload alleviation when a rapid
descent is required.”
The AED mode is triggered when the cabin
pressure falls below a predetermined limit. After alerting the
flight crew, the system engages the autopilot to bring the
aircraft to a lower, safer altitude if there is no crew reaction
within 15 seconds.
The AED’s use on the A350-1000 is the first application of its
kind in a large commercial aircraft and demonstrates Airbus’
commitment to ensuring safety through what AED project leader Florent Lanterna termed “Airbus’ continuous improvement
Developing the brand-new system also meant
evolving an innovative way for Airbus engineers to work across the
company’s separate locations. The AED system requires a seamless
interface between the aircraft’s autopilot and cabin pressurisation systems, explained Besse, and called for close
collaboration between the engineers responsible for each system to
“The autopilot test bench is in Toulouse,
France and the cabin pressurisation facility is in Hamburg,
Germany,” said Besse. An inability to connect the two sites “would
have meant having to do the AED system’s testing on a real
aircraft, which would take much longer.”
Members of the Toulouse autopilot test team went to
Hamburg for meetings with their cabin pressurisation system
colleagues, discussing how the respective systems work.
Ultimately, each site made modifications to their bench networks
that enabled the Toulouse and Hamburg facilities to connect in
real-time, allowing fully representative testing at both sites. Besse was impressed with the transnational collaboration the
“I want to thank Claas Heidmann, the A350 Air
Systems test leader, and his colleagues in Hamburg,” he said.
“This was a difficult project, one that lasted a year, and they
brought a lot of enthusiasm and knowledge”.
With the AED system
already standard on the extended-fuselage A350-1000 version, its
certification for the shorter-length A350-900 variant is in
progress and expected soon.
“The global pilot community asked for
AED, and Airbus test pilots have been very happy with it,” said Lanterna. “We’ll continue to collect user feedback with the A350
XWB and then explore whether to deploy it further”.