The largest variant of Airbus’s A350 family of aircraft has taken flight for the first time.
The maiden flight of the A350-1000 took place on Thursday afternoon (European time), when MSN059 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines took off from Airbus’s Toulouse headquarters.
The aircraft, with pilots Hugues van der Stichel and Frank Chapman and engineer Gérard Maisonneuve in the flight deck, was in the air for four hours and 18 minutes, Airbus said in a statement.
The manufacturer said the crew explored the aircraft’s handling and flight envelope, with progress monitored by experts on the ground in real-time via a direct telemetry link. Also, head of flight and integration tests Patrick du Ché, head of A350 development flight tests Emanuele Costanzo and flight test engineer Stéphane Vaux were keeping an eye on things from the cabin.
Airbus said there would be three A350-1000 development aircraft for the flight test program, which was expected to be completed in time for entry into service in the second half of 2017.
Further, the flight test program would take in some of the learnings from the A350-900, which was completed in 2014 and is now flying with nine airlines.
Airbus published two videos of the first flight on its YouTube channel:
MSN059 would cover exploration of the flight envelope, handling qualities, loads and braking, Airbus said, while the second development aircraft, MSN071, would be “tasked with performance evaluation”, which covered braking, powerplant, systems and autopilot.
Finally, the third member of the development aircraft fleet, MSN065, was for “early long flights” and route-proving. It will be fitted with a cabin interior.
“My congratulations and thanks go to all the teams who have contributed to make today’s flight happen,” Airbus president and chief executive Fabrice Brégier said in a statement.
“We are equally pleased that many customers have witnessed this important milestone today together with us – here from our headquarters in Toulouse.”
Airbus said it had received 195 orders for the A350-1000 from 11 customers. The aircraft is designed to fly 7,950nm carrying 366 passengers. Qatar Airways is the launch customer.