This is a bittersweet Farnborough for Airbus chief test pilot Peter Chandler, as his daily displays in the A350-1000 will mark the end of a 43-year career as a professional aviator.

“It’s a very special show for me, and my retirement in the next couple of months will end a very long association with Farnborough,” Chandler says. He first performed here in 1986 as the RAF’s Tornado display pilot; since joining Airbus 18 years ago he’s been a regular performer at Farnborough and other major shows around the world, logging more than 200 demonstrations in Airbus’s newest airliners.

Contrasting an Airbus show display with that of the Tornado fighter, he says modestly: “There’s not a good deal you can do in an airliner.”

Many would disagree after watching the A350-1000, Airbus’s longest airliner, frolic in the sky. Chandler’s display may be limited to turns with 60-degrees of bank and climbs of up to 30-degrees pitch, but these are maneuvers that commercial transports are never seen performing in daily life. Adding to the wonderment is the lack of noise from the pair of Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

“The slow-speed fly-by looks particularly impressive for such a large aircraft,” Chandler says.

The public can be reassured with the knowledge that the A350-1000 is kept out of trouble by the envelope protection in its fly-by-wire system, which prevents it getting into a dangerous situation. Chandler, too, finds that reassuring, but adds that although he flies very close to the protection, he doesn’t rely on it.

“I could do the slow-speed fly-by with the sidestick full aft,” and the aircraft would not stall, he says, “but that’s not a particularly good idea.” Instead he’s flying manually at 3-4 kts above that threshold.

Similarly the flight control laws help in steep turns that require coordinated rudder input. “I don’t have to do anything,” Chandler says. “It puts in rudder for me.”

While all Airbuses feature similar technology, the A350-1000 is the most advanced with more safety features and automation in the cockpit than ever before with, for example, auto emergency descent that helps the crew dive as fast as possible from the rarified air of cruise altitudes without overspeeding the aircraft.

Chandler has been particularly involved in the design and development of cockpits and their associated systems, and he believes the A350-1000 will set new standards, from the size of its very large, touch-screen displays with trackball-and-cursor controls to integration of information that previously would be shown on a supplemental electronic flight bag (EFB).

Further development continues, Chandler says. Airbus has many projects under way, including exploration of single-pilot crew.

He personally believes the A350-1000 today is technologically capable of single-pilot operation – “but that’s a long way away. It’s not a question of pilot workload, but that the second pilot is there to monitor the first and be a safety backup.” These are issues that technology alone will not resolve.