28 February 2014

A350 XWB; emergency exit on the first prototypes.

Each test flight is operated by a crew of 2 pilots and 3 flight engineers, who monitor the stream of data flowing from a multitude of sensors into a bank of computers installed in the middle of the cabin.

On all seats is a parachute. If things should go terribly awry and the crew needs to evacuate, a bright-orange railing leads them from the cockpit door to a hatch in the floor above the forward baggage compartment. The emergency scape.

By pulling a lever, the crew can trigger a set of explosive charges that will blow a hole in the right side of the fuselage. They can then leap down a slide, through the hole, and into the air.

That’s the idea, anyway. Says test pilot Frank Chapman: “If the plane is tumbling out of control, would you really be able to get out?” He shrugs.

Based on the article “How Airbus Is Debugging the A350” published in Businessweek

27 February 2014

A350 will be at ILA Berlin and at Farnborough airshows

Qatar Airways is aiming to steal the limelight at this year’s Farnborough airshow by displaying no less than 4 airliners including an A380, an A320, an A350, and a 787.

Airbus will display the A350 MSN4 adorned in a hybrid scheme with Qatar Airways titles and branding at Farnborough airshow in July. Additionally Qatar Airways will bring its first A380 where it will also display a Boeing 787-8 and a sharklet-equipped A320.

For ILA Berlin Airshow that will place from 20/May to 25/May, the A350 prototype that will be displayed could be the black&white painted MSN2. 

The cabin installed in this prototype has been developed and manufactured by the German risk-sharing-partner Diehl Aircabin.

Based on the article “Qatar to take first A380s in June, plans Farnborough extravaganza” published in Flight International.

26 February 2014

Two new A350 flying prototypes airborne on the same day

The A350 XWB flight test aircraft, MSN2 and MSN4, have both taken to the skies from Toulouse airport  for their respective first flights, bringing the total number of A350 XWBs now flying from 2 to 4.

To date, the first two A350 XWB test aircraft to fly, MSN1 and MSN3, have already performed close to 1100 flight test hours out of the program’s total 2500 hours planned for certification.
Click the picture to watch a video

The MSN2 is the first test aircraft equipped with a full passenger cabin interior. Airbus has planned "to start carrying passengers and performing tests of the cabin and all of the cabin systems” when it undertakes the Early Long Flights (ELF) in Spring.

Airbus rolled-out its 3rd flight-test aircraft MSN2 from the paint shop in Toulouse on the 2nd of January. It has a distinctive “Carbon” signature livery to reflect its primary construction from advanced materials.

In the upper side of the aft section of the fuselage there is the radome for the satellite based broadband system (a directional antenna is installed in German pre-FAL under the radome). With this system, the passengers will have access to the wifi system within the fuselage for internet connections through smartphones and tablets. 

Based on the press release “A350 XWB flying test fleet doubles size”

25 February 2014

Qatar will fly to New York with A350s in 2015.

Qatar Airways, the largest customer of the A350 is prepared for the arrival of its first A350-900s later this year.

The airline says it will not be able to assess whether the -900 has met performance targets until it enters service in the fourth quarter, but remains confident that the program is on track.

Qatar Airways CEO Al Baker added: “I cannot say anything about the performance until the aircraft is delivered. On paper we have a lot of guarantees, but when we start flying it, we will have to see”.

After initially using the A350 on intra-Gulf services for training, Qatar will operate the A350s first long-haul services to New York and subsequently European routes.

Based on the article “Qatar in talks to order more A350s” published in Flight International

24 February 2014

Detailed analysis of the A350´s fuel burn and range performance will be done with MSN5 “batch2” prototype starting in May.

Airbus will undertake detailed analysis of the A350 XWB’s fuel burn and range performance with the first fully representative aircraft when it flies in May, but is confident that it is on course to achieve all its targets.

The first two aircraft MSN1 and MSN3 -with more than 1000 flight hours logged- have been used for some basic performance testing. MSN2 and MSN4 will also play a role in the process as soon as they airborne in February.

However the test team will concentrate on MSN5 when it becomes available in May for definitive analysis, said Fernando Alonso senior vice-president flight and integration tests.
“MSN5 will be the first ‘batch 2’ airplane built with production-standard engines, and we will fly a 2-3 month test campaign on that airplane which is mandatory to certificate everything related to ‘batch 2’ modifications and the engines,” said Alonso.

This aircraft will also be used for the route-proving program to be flown in conjunction with launch customer Qatar Airways, from the airline’s Doha base.

“Batch 2” represents the production specification A350 with modifications mainly related to weight-saving, said Alonso. “We are on target for the weight with the ‘batch 2’ aircraft. I am very confident that we will deliver the payload and the range that we planned.”

The first A350 off the line for Qatar Airways will be MSN6.
Airbus says it is making “steady progress” towards type certification in the third quarter and it is confident that first deliveries to Qatar Airways and entry-into-service will take place before the end of the year.

Based on the article “Airbus confident on A350 performance numbers.” published in FlightGlobal

23 February 2014

Extreme temperature tests second round scheduled for May. But this time the A350 will be tested indoor.

Following the Bolivia and Canada trials, the A350 will undergo another round of extreme temperature tests in May, but this time it will use the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The hangar will be cooled down to temperatures of around -40 degrees Celsius and heated to reach +45 degrees Celsius. The hangar has been used by many previous programs including, most recently, the Boeing 787.

Two months before, in March, natural icing tests will be completed.

Based on the article “A350 Test Progress Exceeds Expectations” published in AviationWeek

22 February 2014

Qatar could order more A350 -1000s

Qatar Airways is in talks with Airbus about an order for additional A350 XWBs, probably -1000s, as it prepares for the arrival of its first A350-900 later this year.

“There is a possibility that we will order additional A350s”, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said. “We still have not worked out the size of the order. At the moment we are looking at the A350-1000”, he added.

The airliner´s first A350-900 is due for delivery in the Q4 of this year, and the A350-1000s are due to arrive from 2017. Al Baker said the schedule for the planned new A350 order “could overlap with deliveries of the current batch”.

Qatar Airways is the launch customer for the A350 with firm orders for 80 aircraft, comprisiong 43 -900s and 37 -1000s.

It is not clear if the proposed A350 deal would have any impact on 30 options the airline holds for Boeing 787s, as Al Baker has previously been critical of the Dreamliner´s teething problems.

Based on the article “Qatar in talks to order more A350s” published in Flight International

21 February 2014

Singapore Airlines pilots feel at home in the A350 XWB. Commonality is key.

The A350 XWB has been given high marks by two Singapore Airlines pilots following a demonstration flight from Changi Airport in this new jetliner – as both praised its commonality with the A380 and A330 they currently fly, while also appreciating new features incorporated in the cockpit.

Click on the picture to watch a video

Taking the controls from the left seat pilot-in-command position, the two aviators were provided a first-hand A350 XWB experience during a weekend evaluation flight performed prior to the Singapore Airshow’s opening

Captain Quay Chew Eng, the Vice President and Chief Pilot Training at Singapore Airlines – who currently flies the A330 – found the A350 XWB’s handling characteristics to be nearly the same as the rest of Airbus’ fly-by-wire jetliner family, and predicted a nearly seamless transition for pilots to this latest member of the company’s product line.  

He said the A350 XWB’s new cockpit features, including the use of six large-format LCD (liquid crystal display) screens to display flight information for improved pilot interface, were “quiet intuitive.

Captian Gerard Yeap, Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice President – Flight Operations, said he was immediately comfortable on the A350 XWB flight deck based on his current experience flying the A380

“The greatest complement to Airbus is that I feel very at home stepping into this cockpit,” he explained after completing the demonstration flight.  “It handles, looks and feels like another Airbus.

Based on the press release "Singapore Airlines pilots feel at home in the A350 XWB"

20 February 2014

Airbus confident in the EIS of the A350; “We have taken a lot of risk out of the program”

According to Fernando Alonso - senior vice-president flight and integration tests-, Airbus had built in some contingencies into the schedule in case some significant difficulties would be discovered, but there weren’t any.

Because he expects a larger number of requests for late modifications, he has “no hope” however, that the certification and test program could be accelerated.

On the other hand, Alonso is very confident that entry into service will not be delayed. “We have taken a lot of risk out of the program,” he says.

2 more test aircraft, MSN2 -the first full cabin installed- and MSN4 are going to fly before the end of February and MSN5 is planned to fly in May.

All the configurations of the aircraft – flaps and slats settings for various flight phases amongst others – are now defined and frozen. Certification testing involving airworthiness authorities has begun.

Based on the article “A350 Test Progress Exceeds Expectations” published in AviationWeek

19 February 2014

Kuwait's parliament will investigate the provisional agreement of Kuwait Airways to buy 10 A350-900.

Kuwait's parliament voted last week to investigate a deal between the state carrier and Airbus to buy and lease aircraft.

Politics have long complicated Kuwait's plans to modernize its infrastructure and to implement a program to diversify the economy and enable it to compete as a Gulf financial centre.

Such parliamentary inquiries are common in Kuwait, where lawmakers often question large government projects and have delayed or scuppered them in the past.

Lawmakers want to investigate all deals agreed by Kuwait Airways, which is attempting the biggest overhaul of its fleet since the 1990 Iraqi invasion.

In December it signed a provisional agreement with Airbus to buy 25 new aircraft in a deal worth $4.4 billion at list prices.

The order would include the purchase of 10 A350-900 and 15 medium-haul A320neo jets. The airline also aims to lease 12 aircraft from Airbus pending delivery of the new planes.

Based on the article “Kuwait to probe Airbus, power project contracts” published in Reuters

18 February 2014

The discussions on German A350 loan are over.

Airbus has signaled that it no longer expects to get financial aid from Germany for the development of the A350, underscoring how a wide-ranging restructuring of the aerospace giant has loosened the relationship with one of its largest government shareholders.

Airbus has received billions of euros in preferential loans from European governments to support the development of new jetliner models over the past 4 decades. This includes a €500 million loan from Germany for the A350 four years ago.

An agreement on a 2nd loan, for €600 million, remains outstanding because Airbus Group has balked at the terms being imposed by the German government.

"As you're aware, we reopened discussions 18 months ago and we didn't come to a sound conclusion, so we decided to stop," said Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice BrĂ©gier, on the sidelines of the Singapore Air Show. “For me the discussions are over on that."

"We weren't ready for the requirements they wanted," an Airbus spokesman said.

Germany has long insisted on guaranteed work and jobs as part of its shareholding in Airbus Group. The restructuring of EADS as Airbus Group last year further reduced Germany's influence. The company streamlined its defense and space operations, cutting 5,800 jobs and consolidating sites across France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. The group has also shifted its main headquarters from Munich and Paris to its commercial aerospace base in Toulouse, France.

Based on the article “Airbus Ends Talks on German A350 Loans” published in The Wall Street Journal

17 February 2014

Onboard the MSN3 A350 prototype. (video)

Airbus has taken a new approach with the A350 which it was showcased for the first time at the Singapore Airshow. Because the plane on display was a test aircraft with no cabin fittings, just a few seats for the test crew and lots of machines and monitoring equipment on board. According to Airbus, it's a move that has paid off.
Click the picture to watch the video
The standard way of working until now was that when an aeroplane maker decided to put its latest aircraft on public display for the first time at an airshow, it did so with a passenger cabin that is decked to impress customers, future passengers and the media that cover the airshow.

The interior of the Airbus A350 XWB flight test aircraft (MSN3), which does not include any passenger cabin facilities, was displayed during a media preview at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore on Feb. 10.

Visitors to the Airbus A350 test aircraft were greeted by a lot of test and monitoring equipment

"It is very rare that people get a chance to see what goes behind the scenes to get a plane ready to enter commercial service," said Simon Azar, marketing manager of twin-aisle planes at Airbus.

"Bringing a test aircraft here has given them that opportunity. Everyone who has entered the plane has been astonished and impressed by what they have seen."

“It is an opportunity to show that we are progressing well with the testing and are on course to deliver the planes on time” Simon Azar  

The A350 aircraft on display is used to test the plane's performance during various flying conditions.

There is a section where the test flight engineer monitors a slew of data on multiple screens to access its reaction to different situations.
Another desk monitors the performance of the engine during these flights.

Right in the middle of the plane there are huge box fittings called the load benches.

They are used to put extra load on the batteries - to simulate the levels generated in a commercial plane with in-flight entertainment systems, lights and other on-board gadgets being used - to gauge how the batteries would handle the load during a real flight.

And then there is the seemingly unending maze of wires.

Fitted with heavy test instrumentation to carry out performance and systems evaluations in extreme conditions, MSN3 carries more than 400 kilometers of wiring and tons of test equipment.

Based on the article “Singapore Airshow: Why companies showcase test planes” published in the BBC News

16 February 2014

Airbus' 3 challenges by Aboulafia

Based on the opinion-article that aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia has published in Aviation Week, Airbus faces 3 particular challenges:

First, it must decide how best to compete with Boeing’s 787-8/9 for long, thin international routes. For years, Airbus has relied on its A350-800 to compete in this class, but over the past year, the orderbook for this variant has fallen by about half. Given the weakness of the A350-800 orderbook, Airbus may be facing a simple choice: Reengine the A330 despite the costs, or lose the 220-300-seat segment to Boeing.

Airbus’s 2nd challenge is decide whether or not to rescue the A380. Airbus must decide whether it needs an “A380neo” to keep Emirates satisfied or should focus on expanding the A380 customer base beyond the current level.

Airbus’s 3rd—and certainly largest—product-line challenge is to develop a response to Boeing’s 777-9X. With the A350-1000 limited to 350 seats, it’s clear that Boeing’s 407-seat 777-9X will be the largest and most capable twinjet on the market. While a further stretch of the A350 fuselage is possible, it would need a new engine as well as wing and tail modifications. Even then, a notional “A350-1100” is not likely to match the 777-9X’s capabilities. An all-new big twin would be optimal, but quite expensive.

All of these challenges are emerging at a difficult moment in Airbus’s history. On the positive side, it is being reformed under CEO Tom Enders into more of a private-sector company, moving away from government ownership and influence.

Given the requirements of funding the A350 and A320neo, Airbus isn’t likely to have the resources to fund both an A330neo and A380neo and a new large twin, too.

When these factors are taken into account, the market picture for the next decade or so becomes clear. Airbus may have a slight advantage in single aisles, but Boeing’s twin-aisle product line superiority implies a 55% market share by value across the board, assuming it can execute as planned on the 777X and 787-10. The odds are heavily against Airbus’s finding the resources to compete in the 360-450-seat twinjet segment for the next 10 years.
In short, Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come.

Based on the article “Airbus Twin-Aisles—Big Needs, Limited Means” by Richard Aboulafiapublished in Aviation Week.

15 February 2014

Another 10 A350-800 converted to A350-900 in January.

A look at Airbus' January 2014 orders & deliveries report reveals that 2 more customers have switched from the A350-800XWB to the larger A350-900XWB model. ILFC switched its remaining 6 A350-800XWBs on order to the A350-900XWB model while Libyan Arab Airlines did the same for its remaining 4 aircraft. This brings the total number of A350-800XWBs on order to 46 among just 6 customers.

ILFC had been a customer for the first iteration of the A350, but amended its agreement in 2007 following the launch of the A350 XWB family. It placed orders for 12 A350-800s and 8 A350-900s but subsequently converted all but 6 A350-800s to the larger variant.
The latest customer data from Airbus shows that ILFC has switched these 6 remaining aircraft and all 20 are confirmed as -900s.

Libyan Airlines placed its order for four A350-800s in January 2008. Airbus says the carrier placed a "repeat order" for the A350 last month, with a deal for 2 A350-900s, but the backlog data shows that it has also converted all 4 A350-800s and, as a result, has 6 A350-900s on order.

The A350 XWB family orderbook recovers the figure of 814 orders after Libyan Airlines ordered an additional pair of -900s under its revised agreement of January.

Based on the article “Two More Customers Drop The A350-800XWB” published in Aviation Week and on the article “ILFC and Libyan convert all A350-800s to -900s” published in FlightGlobal