After clearing 14 months of trials, Airbus has said its newest aircraft, the A350, is preparing for the delivery of its first plane by the end of this year.
As the long-haul aircraft’s biggest customer, Qatar Airways will be the first airline to receive and fly the new planes. The national carrier has plans to purchase 80 of the aircraft, in a mixture of three models:
- The 315-seater A350-900 (QR has ordered 43); and
- The 369-seater A350-1000 (QR has ordered 37)
The latter model is not due to enter service until 2017. According to Airbus, final documentation and reviews are now underway to obtain certification for the A350s.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker previously told reporters that after the first A350 delivery, the airline expects to receive nine aircrafts by next year, followed by one a month month in 2016 and two a month in 2017.
Each A350-900 is estimated to cost around $277.7 million.
World tour — the final trial
During the testing phase, the A350 landed in 14 different cities on one route, via the North Pole.
Tests were broken down into four trials, all beginning and ending in Toulouse, France, where Airbus is headquartered.
The aircraft landed at Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) in February, stopping over for two days while various checks took place. At the time, HIA was not yet open for commercial use.
During the 20-day tour, the A350 flew approximately 151,300km in some 180 flight hours. All flights were on schedule, according to Airbus.
Fernando Alonso, senior vice president of flight & integration tests, said in a statement:
“The aircraft has performed remarkably well confirming the high level of maturity that it has been demonstrating all the way during our development and certification tests. We are set for the Type Certification in the coming weeks, as planned.
I truly believe that the aircraft is fit to enter into service and perform to the expectations of our customers.”
Five development A350s were actively involved in Airbus’ intensive flight test program, which had already accumulated over 540 flights and 2,250 flight hours prior to the tour.
According to Airbus, the A350 test program has resulted in Airbus achieving its highest flying rate recorded during flight tests.
Airbus has touted the new planes, which can seat 275-369 people, as more fuel efficient than their current long-range competitor, the 254-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
In terms of passenger comfort, the A350 boasts 18-inch wide seats in economy, extra headroom, wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage spaces.
With a cabin cross-section of 220 inches from armrest to armrest, the A350 business and first class seating is five inches wider than its nearest competitor, Airbus said.
Airbus also claims that high-precision air management systems installed on planes, ensuring that total cabin air is renewed every two to three minutes.
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that QR is not ordering any A350-800s. Seating measurements have also been edited.