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.