The first Airbus A350 XWB had its maiden flight yesterday by opening a new challenging chapter in the global aviation history. The European aircraft manufacturer with the A350 XWB aircraft, also gives a new practical dimension to international competition in the global aviation market:
A new chapter has opened in Airbus’ 43 year history as the first A350 XWB, the world’s most efficient large twin-engined commercial aircraft, powered aloft yesterday morning for its maiden flight at Blagnac in Toulouse, France at 10.00 hours local time. Equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofans, the A350 XWB first flight is taking place over south western France. An international crew of six is 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 are Peter Chandler, Airbus’ Chief Test Pilot, and Guy Magrin, Project Pilot for the A350 XWB. Accompanying them in the cockpit is Pascal Verneau, the A350 XWB Project Test Flight Engineer. At their flight test stations in the main aircraft cabin and monitoring the progress of the flight via an extensive array of flight test instrumentation are the three flight test engineers: Fernando Alonso, Head of Airbus Flight & Integration Test Center; Patrick du Ché, Head of Development Flight Tests; and Emanuele Costanzo, lead Flight Test Engineer for the Trent XWB engine. This 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 A350-900 variant by the European EASA and US FAA airworthiness authorities, prior to entry into service in the second half of 2014 with first operator Qatar Airways.
The A350 XWB made its first flight just two days before the official opening of the International Paris Air Show 2013:
The A350 XWB, the first all-new commercial jet from Airbus in more than six years, took wing into partly cloudy skies here on Friday. There was a lot more riding on it than the multinational crew of two test pilots and four engineers. The new aircraft carries the burden of dispelling Airbus’s reputation for cross-cultural and industrial dysfunction, which caused costly delays in the introduction of the company’s previous plane, the A380 superjumbo. And in the wake of last year’s failed merger of the plane maker’s parent, European Aeronautic Defense and Space, and the British military contractor BAE Systems, Airbus is betting its future more heavily on the success of commercial jets like the A350. It is no coincidence that Airbus showed off the A350 — a twin-engine wide-body jet meant to compete with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 777 — as the global aviation industry assembled for the biennial Paris Air Show, scheduled to open Monday at Le Bourget Airport north of the French capital. As always at the show, which is the world’s largest aerospace bazaar, any announcements by other industry players will be undercard matches compared with the main event of Airbus vs. Boeing.
More importantly, the reduction of fuel consumption is one of the main A350 XWB benefits, as Airbus declares that the new aircraft can operate by offering a 25% fuel reduction at its flight operating costs:
Airlines are being squeezed by high fuel costs and falling passenger numbers, and are looking for more fuel-efficient aircraft. Airbus claims the A350, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, will use about 25% less fuel than previous generation wide-bodied aircraft. Like the Dreamliner, the A350 is made largely of advanced materials, particularly carbon composites, in order to save weight. Airbus has already taken more than 600 orders for the new plane, whereas there have been 890 Dreamliner orders so far. The company hopes to start delivering the first A350s to customers by the end of 2014. Analysts say a successful test flight would be a major milestone for Airbus in the A350 project, with major aircraft manufacturing projects frequently beset by delays. ”All recent programmes before it, both by Airbus, Boeing and others, have had reasonably horrendous technical problems and delays,” said Nick Cunningham, an aviation analyst at the London-based Agency Partners, speaking to French agency AFP. ”So every time you hit a milestone (such as a test flight), it’s good news because it means that you’ve missed an opportunity to have another big delay.”
This year’s Paris Air Show is to give to international aviation partners a first taste of the intense competition between Boeing and Airbus by showcasing the 787 Dreamliner and A350 XWB aircraft:
The 2013 Paris Air Show – the 50th since the biennial event started in 1909 – will see the leading players of the global aviation industry fly in to showcase their wares at Le Bourget from June 17-23. The battle between European planemaker Airbus, a unit of EADS and U.S. rival The Boeing Company for supremacy in the lucrative market for long-haul jets is set to dominate the upcoming Paris event. Airbus and Boeing compete for the lion’s share of a jet market estimated at $100 billion a year. At the last Paris show two years ago, Airbus moved ahead of Boeing on orders with the launch of its narrow-body A320. Chicago-based Boeing recovered last year when it announced a new version of its venerable 737, but the European group still accounts for four out of five planes sold. With fuel cost up about 55 percent since 2006 and airlines flying against considerable economic headwinds, International Air Transport Association, the industry’s trade body, said interest in larger fuel-efficient planes is on the rise. These aircraft, which can carry between 210 and 500 passengers, offer planemakers the biggest profit margins. Come next week, all eyes will be on two next-generation long-haul planes — Airbus’ A350 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.