With the scheduled for a first flight Friday morning, CEO Tom Enders says he is confident the aircraft will see additional orders at next week’s Paris air show.
“The A350 was, and still is, immensely challenging,” Enders said during a media dinner in Paris on the eve of the aircraft’s planned first flight at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. “But the real work starts tomorrow,” he said, starting with an ambitious program to achieve A350 safety certification in 14 months.
“We’ve improved our processes over previous programs,” said Enders, adding that the certification program assumes another four test aircraft come on line as planned. “The more ambitious schedule means we need five aircraft, because the flight tests are overlapping.”
Recalling that Airbus received 700 orders for commercial aircraft at the 2011 Paris air show, Enders said he expects “a few hundred orders” for commercial aircraft at Le Bourget next week.
He declined to estimate order prospects for the A350, but said he anticipates “success on the A350-900,” the version that will take to the skies tomorrow, “and particularly for the A350-1000,” which he says is a strong competitor to rival.
Despite A350 development delays, Enders says the inaugural flight will be “a galvanizing event for the Airbus team” as it prepares to ramp up production “from one or two to 10 or 11 aircraft per month” in anticipation of first deliveries.
“It’s not a walk in the park,” he said. “But overall, I’m quite happy with the program.”