New Airbus A350 successfully completes test flight
Updated Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:03am AEST
Airbus’s new A350 plane has glided smoothly through its maiden flight, leaving company executives relieved and brimming with confidence for the battle with Boeing that lies ahead.
Designed to help the European manufacturer catch up with its American rival in the market for long-haul, fuel-efficient planes, the new Airbus completed a faultless test flight from an airport close to the company’s headquarters in southern France.
After just over four hours in the air, the new plane touched down to cheers from thousands of Airbus employees and aviation enthusiasts who had assembled to watch the landmark flight.
“We were on time and everything went perfectly,” a relieved Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier said.
The plane cruised past crowds on the ground at a height of just 100 metres before looping round against clear blue skies and coming in to land.
Although the flight was only the first in an intensive year-long testing program, Airbus needed Friday’s showcase to pass off without any hiccups in order to maximise the potential for further orders at next week’s Paris Air Show.
“I’m confident it will be a roaring success in the market,” declared Tom Enders, the chairman of Airbus’s parent company EADS.
Peter Chandler, Airbus’s chief test pilot who was at the controls when the plane took off for the first time, said the plane had been “ready to fly and wanting to fly” since it left the final assembly line two weeks ago.
“That was obvious this morning as it was clearly much happier in the air than it has been running down the runway and stopping all the time,” he said.
Boeing expressed its congratulations to its rival. “A new airplane is a very complex endeavour and this is a milestone the industry can celebrate together,” it said.
Much like its competitor – Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, in service since September 2011 – the A350 makes extensive use of light composite materials that significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs.
Airbus engineers celebrate ‘smoother and quieter’ flight
Arnaud Verneau, one of the flight engineers on board on Friday, said the flight had been smoother and quieter than anyone had hoped for.
“We were even able to put it on auto pilot on after two hours, which we had not anticipated doing,” he said, adding that the plane’s lighter materials had not resulted in more noise inside the cabin.
“We will see as the tests progress but for the moment, it is the same (as a traditionally constructed plane),” he said.
More than 10,000 hours of ground tests had been done on the airliner before the flight, and over the next year five test planes will criss-cross the globe in the warmest and coldest regions, at low and high speed.
If all goes well, first delivery is expected at the end of 2014.
Confirmed customers so far include Qatar Airways, British Airways and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific.
First posted Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:14am AEST