Airbus' test-flight programme for the A350 XWB will comprise five aircraft, two of which will be fitted with interior cabins.

The airframer expects to complete the five aircraft relatively quickly, in the space of about six months.

A350 XWB programme head Didier Evrard, speaking to ATI during a briefing in Hamburg, says the manufacturer will fit the second and fifth aircraft with cabins.

Evrard says the fifth aircraft will be used largely for longer flights to test the capability for operations, while the early fitting of the second is designed to address customisation and definition "challenges" with the cabin.

He says Airbus wants to demonstrate and validate new cabin features, and noise-damping capabilities, adding: "It's very important that we have it flying sooner rather than later."

The sixth aircraft off the line will be the first specifically for customers.

Evrard expects the test regime to last about 15 months but says the flight programme could be completed in 12, with around 3,000hr total flight time.

Airbus has already passed the crucial 'MG5' review stage for the A350-900 variant, which has frozen the design of the fuselage, wings, empennage and systems architecture.

Evrard says that the airframer will reach both technological and manufacturing readiness for the twin-jet by the end of this year and be "in place to manufacture the first parts".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news