Airbus has an ambitious goal for its latest model: winning regulatory approval to fly significantly further from emergency landing strips than any other twin-engine jetliner now on the market.
Airbus has told customers and air-safety officials that the A350 is designed to eventually serve super-long-haul overwater or polar routes that take it up to 7 hours away from the nearest diversion airport. That's a 30% longer than the maximum 5 ½-hour limit for current twin-engine Airbus A330s and Boeing777 aircraft.
The proposed change means that in the event of an A350 en route emergency, reaching a runway could require the equivalent of a north Atlantic crossing from New York to London on a single engine. In addition to engine reliability, such a 420-minute diversion limit also requires demonstrating improved dependability or enhancements to electrical supply, fire suppression and other systems.
That would open up some new, nonstop routes for twinjets, such as Australia to Brazil or New Zealand to South Africa probably later this decade, according to industry officials, while giving Airbus a public-relations and marketing edge over its U.S. rival.
Boeing's 787s currently must stay within 180 minutes of emergency strips, and there's no indication that restriction is likely to be eased quickly. One reason is continuing concerns about the 787's cutting-edge lithium batteries. The 787's high-profile battery problems, which caused the fleet to be temporarily grounded last year, have made Airbus officials and the rest of the industry leery of predicting expanded diversion times as soon as new models are introduced.
Longer permitted diversion times generally allow for more direct routes and also mean airlines can save time and fuel during periods when bad weather or other factors make certain emergency strips unavailable.
In case of an engine problem, cabin depressurization or other emergency requiring an A350 to fly at lower than normal altitudes, for example, cockpit computers will provide pilots with optimum and safe descent profiles including escape routes through mountainous terrain.
Based on the article “Airbus Seeks Approval for A350s to Fly Farther From Nearest Emergency Strip” published in The Wall Street Journal