The first Airbus A350 XWB widebody jet has successfully completed its first flight, landing to the cheers of thousands of Airbus employees, guests and media representatives gathered for the event.
Crewed by a flight and engineering crew of six, the first Airbus A350 XWB flight-test aircraft ‒ MSN1, an A350-900, the first A350 XWB model to be developed ‒ took off for its maiden flight at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (IATA code TLS) in France at 10.00 hours local time on June 14.
Equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofans, the first flight-test A350 XWB made its maiden flight over southwestern France. The aircraft landed successfully back at TLS at approximately 2:05 p.m. local time.
An international crew of six was on board, comprising two flight test pilots, one test flight engineer and three flight test engineers.
At the controls of the A350 XWB’s first flight was Peter Chandler, Airbus’ chief test pilot, and Guy Magrin, project pilot for the A350 XWB. Accompanying them in the cockpit was Pascal Verneau, the A350 XWB project test flight engineer.
Meanwhile, at their flight-test stations in the aircraft’s main cabin and monitoring the progress of the flight via an extensive array of flight test instrumentation were three flight test engineers: Fernando Alonso, head of the Airbus Flight & Integration Test Centre; Patrick du Ché, head of development flight tests; and Emanuele Costanzo, lead flight test engineer for the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine.
During the first flight the crew retracted the A350-900’s landing gear, tested the cabin pressurization and flew the aircraft to an altitude of 25,000 feet and an airspeed of 340 knots (Mach 0.8 at that altitude).
“I think the biggest compliment I can give the A350 XWB is that … after the first few minutes it didn’t feel like we were doing a first flight … it felt like we were at the end of a flight-test program, it was so relaxed and predictable,” Chief Test Pilot Chandler told assembled Airbus staff, guests and media shortly after disembarking the aircraft following the flight.
The head of the A350 XWB program revealed to the assembled crowd that he had given the development team as long as nine months previously a target of a first flight before the Paris Air Show.
June 14’s first flight marks the beginning of a test campaign totaling around 2,500 flight hours with a fleet of five development aircraft. The rigorous flight testing will lead to the certification of the Airbus A350-900 variant by the European EASA and U.S. FAA airworthiness authorities, prior to expected entry into service in the second half of 2014 with first operator Qatar Airways.
The A350 XWB is Airbus’ new mid-size long-range aircraft family, comprising three versions which seat from 270 to 350 passengers in three-class layouts.
The new family will use 25 per cent less fuel and providing an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions than existing aircraft in the same size category, according to Airbus.
To date the A350 XWB has already won firm orders for 613 aircraft from 33 customers worldwide.
Other major A350 XWB orders are expected before the end of the year, with the Paris Air Show ‒ traditionally a major platform for Airbus order announcements ‒ beginning on June 17. It is thought likely that A350 XWB MSN1 will perform a fly-past at some point during the show.
Additionally, Lufthansa Group is expected to place a sizable order for widebodies in the early fall. According to one source familiar with the group’s plans, Lufthansa is likely to order between 50 and 60 aircraft and the order will include, or will entirely consist of, A350 XWBs.