Now boarding: The A350 XWB takes off on its first passenger flight as part of ongoing evaluations

2 June 2014 Feature story

As preparations continue for the A350 XWB’s first delivery later in 2014, Airbus is ensuring this next-generation widebody jetliner provides an unmatched cabin experience with the initial flight test carrying a full passenger load – which commenced today from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France.

While it is not part of the technical certification campaign, this evaluation – called an Early Long Flight (ELF) – marks an important step toward the A350 XWB’s commercial service entry, allowing Airbus to assess the cabin environment and related systems in a typical operating scenario.

Today’s ELF is being performed by the second of five A350 XWB test aircraft, designated MSN002. Airbus experimental test pilots are at the flight controls, while a crew from Air France tends to the passengers – made up of Airbus employees selected in recognition of strong work performance. The Air France crew was trained to operate the A350 XWB’s cabin – including public address systems, galleys and safety equipment – prior to this test activity. 

Depending on weather conditions, the scheduled ELF flight path will take the aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean, as well as much of western and central Europe, before returning to Toulouse. This test aims to replicate a normal commercial flight according to ELF test director Christophe Bertrand, with confirming A350 XWB airport compatibility as one key objective.

Another focus will be observing the behavior of cabin systems. “We’ll be looking at everything from the in-flight entertainment system and overhead storage bins to the air conditioning and lavatories,” explained Bertrand ahead of today’s ELF take-off. “We also want the crew to experiment with their systems and see how they like the crew rest areas.”

Questionnaires to be filled out by passengers and crew will provide valuable feedback on such qualities as noise, air flow, comfort and ergonomics, as well as the A350 XWB’s many new cabin features – including its LED lighting system and in-flight entertainment.

The A350 XWB’s wide fuselage cross-section was designed for an optimum travel experience in all classes of service. Passengers will enjoy 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 the 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 Airbus’ standard 18-inch seat width. 

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