Airbus began the 2,500-hour flight-test program for the A350 XWB when the new long-range widebody took off for the first time at almost exactly 10 a.m. local time in Toulouse, France, on Friday. The eagerly awaited first flight over southwestern France lasted slightly more than four hours and the twinjet, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, touched down safely back in Toulouse at 2:05 p.m.
Regardless of whether this week’s 50th Paris Air Show (June 17 to 23) sees a surprise fly-past by the newly airborne Airbus A350XWB widebody, the biennial event will open with expectations of yet more airliner orders further bolstering backlogs. Both Airbus and Boeing, which will display two 787 Dreamliners, are expected to announce further orders.
“The honeymoon has lasted longer than on previous aircraft: people go out of their way to fly on [the A380 very-large airliner],” according to Airbus programs executive vice-president Tom Williams. By the beginning of this month, the European manufacturer had delivered 103 aircraft from the 262 for which it holds firm orders, leaving a backlog of 159, equivalent to about six years’ production.
Airbus is understandably relieved to have flown the A350 XWB widebody just before the Paris Air Show, but the European manufacturer’s twin-aisle family accounts for only a small proportion of outstanding orders as it prepares to proceed with the new aircraft’s flight-test program. Nevertheless, deliveries of 247 aircraft overall and net orders for 493 new jets by June 1 constitute a “strong start” to 2013 for the European manufacturer, according to marketing senior vice-president Christopher Emerson. Airbus delivered 588 aircraft in 2012 and expects to ship more than 600 this year.
The oft-critiqued Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (747-8I) program appears finally to have found its stride following a series of development delays and struggles with performance shortcomings. Needing to adjust to soft demand in the very-large widebody market, however, Boeing (Chalets A324 and B321) recently cut 747-8 production rates from two to 1.75 per month and its 20-year projection for the large widebody market segment by 4 percent, leading to inevitable questions about the long-term viability of the latest iteration of the Queen of the Skies.
Orders from Singapore Airlines covering up to 50 additional Rolls-Royce (R-R) Trent XWB-engined A350-900s boosted Airbus as it made final preparations late last month [May] for the new airliner’s first flight. The Asian carrier has booked 30 examples and taken options on 20 more (convertible to larger A350-1000s), boosting the total number of A350-900s it has ordered to 70.
Boeing harbors no interest in getting into a so-called price war with Airbus, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner insisted during a roundtable discussion with journalists yesterday in Paris. But when pressed for a reaction to Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier’s recent comments about his ambitions to attract more than 50 percent of the widebody market, Conner eagerly answered the challenge. “I would say the same thing,” quipped Conner. “So it’s going to be fun. We look forward to it.”
Airbus began the 2,500-hour flight-test program for its new A350 XWB when the new long-range widebody took off for the first time at almost exactly 10:00 a.m. local time in Toulouse, France on Friday. The eagerly awaited first flight over southwestern France lasted slightly more than four hours and the twinjet, powered by Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB engines, safely touched down back in Toulouse at 2:05 p.m.
Boeing’s projection for more than 35,000 new airplanes over the next 20 years suggests a doubling of the size of today’s airliner fleet and a continuing trend in which increases in airline traffic outpace economic growth. The outlook appears to reflect a growing confidence in the fidelity of the positive market indicators the company cited in its 2012 forecast, prompting the company to increase its projection for total airplanes by more than 1,000 units and value by some 7 percent.
As launch customer Qatar Airways prepares to receive new Airbus A350s next year, the Arab operator will train using an operations department at the manufacturer’s Toulouse factory in southwest France. Until then, Airbus plans to conduct flight-test activities to mirror airlines operations at that facility.