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The next step is to have the MSN1 fully certified for commercial flight in about 12 to 13 months

Airbus is breathing a sigh of relief now that it can say it had its first successful flight of the A350 XWB family.

The A350 XWB "MSN1" made its first flight last Friday from Toulouse-Blagnac airport in France. It took off about 10 a.m. local time and landed four hours later. 

According to Airbus, the maiden voyage was a complete success with no hiccups from start to finish. 

"After the first few minutes, it didn't feel like we were doing a first test flight," said Peter Chandler, chief test pilot for Airbus. "It was so relaxed and so predictable."

Other comments included how comfortable the ride was and how quiet the MSN1 was. Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said that people living near airports will no longer have to hear planes taking off with the A350s.

The A350 XWB takes flight

“I congratulate the whole A350 XWB development team for having completed the first flight preparation in a record time. I also wish to thank the first flight crew today for taking this aircraft where it wants to be – in the sky," said Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier. “I would also like to extend my gratitude to all our teams in the design offices, at programme and manufacturing level, the ground crews as well as our colleagues in airlines and suppliers and many others who helped define this all-new aircraft. The A350 XWB which has flown today, integrating the latest available technologies, is now entering the final stage of its development. And it is ready. Ready to head towards certification and entry-into-service in the second half of next year.”

Now that the first flight is complete, the next step is to have the MSN1 fully certified for commercial flight in about 12 to 13 months. 

Last year, Airbus also mentioned wanting the A350 XWB to make its first flight ahead of the Paris Air Show (which runs June 17-23), but it hasn't said anything about sending the plane to the show.

Airbus' A350 XWB is a family of wide-body, long-range jet airliners that are the first Airbus with wing structures and fuselage made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. The XWB stands for "extra wide body," and it uses 25 percent less fuel and an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to other aircraft in its size category.

The A350 XWB, which was first announced in 2006 (with the MSN1 unveiled on May 13, 2013), includes the A350-800, the A350-900 and the A350-1000 in its family. They seat 270, 314 and 350 passengers respectively, and are meant to compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777s.

Airbus' road to success with the A350 hasn't been easy. When it was first introduced, Airbus simply took its popular A330 jet and gave it a new engine in order to quickly respond to the unveiling of the Boeing 787. Airlines complained, saying it was an easy way out instead of a new, efficient design. 

To be fair, the 787 has had some troubles too. Earlier this year, it experienced many issues with electrical fires, battery issues and fuel leaks that landed all the 787s until an investigation cleared up the situation. 

Many of Boeing's issues have been fixed with solutions like a steel box to enclose the lithium ion batteries, a duct to vent gases outside the aircraft and new battery chargers. United Airlines has already put its 787s back in service, and All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan Airlines Co. and LOT Polish Airlines SA started flying 787s commercially the first week of June.

Sources: CNN, Airbus

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RE: Slight correction
By Solandri on 6/17/2013 8:49:38 PM , Rating: 3
They were going to give the A330 fuselage a new composite wing and new engines. Given that probably ~90% of the efficiency improvement will come from the wing/engine combo, it was a logical engineering decision - which backfired when the airlines wanted new, new, new and were caught up in the composites buzz.

The airlines didn't want a new competitor to the 787, which is what Airbus originally proposed. They wanted a competitor to the 777.

Airbus' A340 was doing a miserable job competing with the 777, and the airlines used the 787's launch as an excuse to strongarm Airbus into turning the A350 into a 777 competitor. And that's exactly what the A350 is - it will compete with the larger capacity 787 models, and smaller and medium capacity 777 models.

Proof? The poorest-selling variant (A350-800) is the one whose seating capacity matches the 787-9. The other two better-selling variants are 777 competitors. So this wasn't a case of the airlines getting caught up in hype over the new 787. They knew exactly what they were doing. They used a publicity campaign over the 787 to shake Airbus' stubborn loyalty to the A340, and get Airbus to finally build the plane the airlines really wanted.

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