I’ve finally had a chance to catch my breath after the whirlwind that was the Paris Air Show and a week of playing catch-up on IFE&C news after the show (have you checked out Flight Global’s new IFE&C channel yet?).
One of the most memorable experiences for me in Paris was the luncheon held by Airbus to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of its A300B, the first twin-engined widebody jet.
I had the opportunity to meet some of the original A300B test pilots, as well as the airframer’s modern-day wizzes. A380 test pilot Peter Chandler was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the A380 testbed (I’ll post a video blog about this in the future).
It is probably a profound understatement to say that the last month has been very difficult for Airbus, which has seen two of its widebody aircraft involved in fatal crashes. The Air France A330 that disappeared over the South Atlantic on 1 June has highlighted the importance of robust connectivity off an aircraft (we’ll have more on this later).
But for a very brief time in Paris, the company had a little respit from the storm as it honoured its past and looked to the future.
Below is the article I wrote for the Flight Show Daily, and then scroll down for pictures of Peter and me in the A380 testbed.
Airbus – past, present and future
Airbus honoured its past yesterday when it brought together members of the original A300B flight test team with key figures behind the A380 programme to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the A300B, the world’s first twin-engined widebody jet.
Airbus personalities like A300B test pilots Bernard Ziegler and Gunter Scherer joined the father of the A380, Juergen Thomas, and the inventor of the Airbus brand design, Knut Marsen, during a special VIP luncheon at the Airbus press chalet.
The A300B, launched on 29 May 1969 by the French and German governments, “was the beginning of a long adventure for European civil aviation”, says Airbus.
Speaking at a cake-cutting ceremony, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders told the A300B pilots that the company “would not be here today” without their work. He said he hopes the pilots “can see that Airbus has not lost its pioneering spirit”, and is pushing forward with new programmes.
The next twin-engined widebody to emerge from Airbus will be the A350 XWB, which is expected to enter service in 2013. “I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t stay on the schedule,” says Airbus test pilot Peter Chandler.
He points out that Airbus is taking most of the cockpit developments of the A380 and putting them into the A350 “plus a few new things as well”.
At the same time, new technology that finds itself on the A350 – such as the runway overrun protection system and flight management system updates – will “feed back into the A380″.