ATW Editor's Blog

Flying on the Airbus A350 XWB

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A very special day today. Yesterday, I explained that I am in Toulouse attending Airbus’ annual innovation event to brief journalists from around the world.

This morning, as some 150 reporters gathered at the Airbus delivery center, we were greeted by the A350 XWB test aircraft MSN002, which was parked right outside the building. And we were informed that we would be taking a one-hour flight on the aircraft.

We boarded the aircraft – which has an almost complete cabin interior with a four-across business cabin and nine-across economy cabin.

With Airbus chief test pilot Peter Chandler and A350 project test pilot Frank Chapman at the helm, we took off from Toulouse Blagnac Airport at 10.45am and with a takeoff weight of 192 tonnes.

During the one-hour flight, the aircraft climbed to a cruise altitude of 31,000 feet, flying over the Pyrenees mountains on a beautiful summer day, and was visited at one point by a French Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter jet. Enroute back to Toulouse, they turned on the cabin mood lighting.

My impressions?  Very quiet on takeoff, through climb and at cruise. A distinctly spacious-feeling cabin that feels very much like flying on an A380. This is going to be a highly comfortable aircraft that will provide airlines lots of flexibility to tailor their customer offering.

There are four A350-900s in the test program; they have accumulated just under 2,000 flight hours and the fifth test aircraft is about to join the program. Among major tests completed so far are the high energy rejected take off (HERTO), high-altitude testing, extreme hot/cold climate testing, and water trough testing. Certification is targeted for late summer/fall.

My sincere thanks to the Airbus flight-test team for providing this amazing opportunity while they are focused on a deadline-packed test program before first delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways at the end of the year.

Enjoy these photos by your editor and my colleague and fellow A350 travel companion, ATW correspondent Kurt Hofmann.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Jun 14, 2014

I'm kind of surprised the wing doesn't sweep up as much in-flight as I think the B787 does?

on Jun 16, 2014

I would agree; from what I could see and comparing it with the 787 (I was on the inaugural 787 revenue flight with ANA from Tokyo to Hong Kong), the Dreamliner wing sweeps higher. I had a window seat for take offs on both aircraft. The 787 wing sweep was quite dramatic.

on Jun 14, 2014

As I mentioned elsewhere in these blogs, the A350 will be able to hold its own on entering service and firmly so.

Comparisons on performance and other parameters are at times irrelevant as every new aircraft does bring something new or revolutionary with it, as has been happening ever since man took to the skies.

That said, commercial and other business factors hugely influence market decisions which could sometimes spell trouble for a new aircraft in spite of it being an excellent marvel of engineering.

Here is wishing the A350 a long and successful innings...!!

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