Airbus is understood to be handing over the first A350-900, MSN001, to the flight test department on May 17, industry sources tell Aviation Week. The aircraft will then undergo its last campaigns of ground testing, including high speed taxi tests. Airbus did not comment on the timing.
People familiar with the matter say that around 20 days are planned to prepare the aircraft for first flight. Airbus only says that the aircraft will make its maiden flight “this summer”. The manufacturer has indicated that it is unlikely the A350 will fly before the Paris Air Show in June, but the 20 day period would put that date around one week before the opening of Le Bourget. First flight dates can shift at the last minute because of weather or last minute technical issues.
Airbus rolled out MSN001 from the paint hangar on Monday in what is a further step towards first flight. The aircraft was painted in less than week. It has the flight test instrumentation largely and its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines installed. MSN001 has also completed a series of ground vibration tests. Industry sources say the aircraft is mature enough to fly very soon.
Unlike for previous programs, Airbus did not hold a grand roll-out ceremony, but presented the aircraft to a group of employees only.
Airbus holds 414 firm orders for the A350-900, 92 for the A350-800 and 110 for the A350-1000. Given a recent surge in demand, Chief Operating Officer Customers John Leahy has hinted that he would like to see production rates for the aircraft to go up sooner rather than later. Kuwait Airways could become the next customer for the -900 with an order for ten aircraft in the final stages of negotiations.
All photos: Airbus