The biggest member of the Airbus’s A350 XWB family was in Sydney as part of a world tour ahead of the type’s first delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways on February 20.
The aircraft, MSN065 F-WLXV, is Airbus’s third A350-1000 flight test airframe, and operated a short return flight from Sydney Airport with a number of Qantas senior executives onboard, including Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce.
Qantas is particularly interested in the A350 design for its Project Sunrise requirement for an aircraft capable of flying nonstop from the east coast of Australia to both London and New York (for which Boeing is expected to offer a development of its Boeing 777-8X). The aircraft will also be demonstrated to Air New Zealand in Auckland on Tuesday, while in the past Virgin Australia has also shown interest in Airbus’s newest widebody design.
“When we look at the total [A350] backlog 35 per cent of the total orders of the A350 belong to customers in Asia Pacific,” head of A350 marketing Marisa Lucas-Ugena told media ahead of the demonstration flight.
“We have 14 customers in Asia, eight of them have already received A350-900s, and while you see the ‘Pacific’ part of [the map of Asia Pacific] is a little empty we are really looking forward to filling [that gap] with some A350 orders.”
To date Airbus holds 854 orders firm orders for the A350, of which 146 had been delivered by the end of January. Of those, 169 orders are for the A350-1000.
While Airbus’s solution for the Project Sunrise mission seems likely to be based on the 9,7000nm range A350-900ULR, which has been ordered by Singapore Airlines to operate nonstop from Singapore to New York, the high degree of commonality between A350 variants means the A350-1000’s visit was a timely one for Qantas technical and operational staff as the airline appraises its options for the demanding ultra long-haul mission.
After visiting Sydney and Auckland, the A350-1000 is due to visit Tokyo and Manila at the conclusion of its tour before returning to Toulouse. It had arrived in Sydney from Bangkok on Saturday evening.