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Airbus Begins A350 XWB Tests

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

12 December 2012

Airbus has announced that it has completed the main structural assembly of the first flight-test prototype A350 Extra Wide Body (XWB) aircraft, 'MSN1.' The new Airbus 350 family aims to best US rival Boeing's latest Dreamliner 787 and 777 offerings, with improved capacity and fuel efficiency.

MSN1 was named after French aeronautical engineer Roger Beteille at an inauguration ceremony at the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France on December 4. Following successful testing of the plane's electronics, Airbus now intends to test the plane's hydraulics system as the next stage of the aircraft's development. Before it can take its first flight in mid-2013, the aircraft will be subject to extensive production and certification/development tests, be painted and have its engines installed.

Airbus’ A350 XWB family consists of three versions (the A350-800, -900 and -1000) each with flight ranges that give them a global reach. In a typical three-class configuration, the A350-800 will accommodate 270 passengers, while the A350-900 and the A350-1000 will contain seating for 314 and 350 passengers, respectively. All A350 XWB Family members can be configured for higher density layouts of up to 440 seats. The Boeing Dreamliner 787 meanwhile has variants with seats for 210 to 290 passengers. The larger 777 can carry over 300.

Airbus claims the family will be 25% more fuel efficient than its current long-range competitor, the 787, cutting operating costs by 8%.

The A350 XWB is the first Airbus aircraft to comprise of more than 50% composite materials, a trend set by Boeing which built its 787 with over 80% composite materials by volume. Over 70% of the A350 XWB’s weight-efficient airframe is made from advanced materials, combining 53% of composite structures with titanium and advanced aluminum alloys. Meanwhile, the wing is optimized through extensive use of computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel testing for a fast cruise speed of Mach 0.85.

To enhance passenger experience, the A350 XWB’s wide fuselage cross-section has been designed to allow more headroom, wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage space. With a cross-section of 220 inches from armrest to armrest, the jetliner’s cabin provides the widest seats in its category, being five inches larger than its nearest competitor. In addition to providing the space for unmatched premium first class and business solutions, the A350 XWB allows for high-comfort economy seating in a nine-abreast arrangement, with a 18-inch seat width.

A revised forecast from Airbus in July said a first delivery of a A350-900 would occur in the second half of 2014, to launch customer Qatar Airways. The -800 is to enter into service in mid-2016, while the -1000 aircraft will begin to be delivered from 2017.

TAGS: aviation

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