Airbus’s A350-900 made its first flight across the Tasman Sea on 5 August, completing a less than 3h flight from Sydney to Auckland.
Prototype aircraft MSN5 – currently involved in route-proving and function and reliability test campaigns – arrived in the Australian city earlier the same day, following a visit to Johannesburg in South Africa.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti was given a tour of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-engined aircraft in Sydney, and said he was “pleasantly surprised” by its interior’s straight walls and flat ceiling.
The search for a replacement for the carrier’s Airbus A330-200s and Boeing 777-300ERs has resumed, but Borghetti did not disclose a timetable for reaching a decision. Several of Virgin Australia’s staff were on the flight to Auckland in New Zealand to evaluate the aircraft’s operation and layout.
MSN5 took off with a weight of 220t, including 60t of fuel, and had 62 people on board. Following a city circuit and missed approach into Sydney airport, it crossed the Tasman Sea at 39,000ft.
Less than 24h after its arrival in Auckland, the aircraft left for Santiago, Chile.
Airbus says the A350 has been performing “exceptionally well” during its route-proving activity, and cites a dispatch reliability performance of close to 100%.