The airline within Airbus: Flying the A350 XWB to prepare for the jetliner’s service entry

Airbus is going the “Xtra” mile to ensure the A350 XWB’s successful service entry – developing its own “airline” – designated Airline 1 – to evaluate the A350 XWB in typical operating conditions.

16 July 2014 Feature story

As part of the flight-test campaign, this simulated airline experience focusses on both the aircraft’s maturity and operability so the A350 XWB is ready for a successful service introduction following the planned startup of customer deliveries this year.  

“The concept is simple: to operate and test the aircraft as much as possible in an operational environment, use the maintenance and support systems that our customers would have, capture their findings as soon as possible, and fix small issues quickly,” explained Didier Evrard, Head of the A350 XWB Programme. “The Airline 1 concept is a means to accelerate the aircraft maturity at the end of development.”

Airline 1 comprises a dedicated staff that operates a hangar and maintenance control centre in coordination with Airbus’ flight-test team. This allows for daily maintenance, support and repair operations for the five-aircraft A350 XWB test fleet in an environment similar to what the jetliner will experience in commercial service.  

In addition, another important aspect of the company’s A350 XWB maturity campaign were the Early Long Flights performed this June. Consisting of two missions with selected Airbus employees as “passengers,” these flights were operated by actual airline crews from Air France and Lufthansa, allowing Airbus to assess the cabin environment and systems in settings that represented a normal commercial transport. 

Taking lessons from previous aircraft service introductions across the industry, Airline 1 and the A350 XWB maturity campaign were developed specifically to ensure a smooth service entry for this next-generation jetliner – another example of the “Xtra” that makes the difference. 

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