Airbus is to work towards offering a lithium battery as the line-fit standard for its A350-900 from 2016, following certification of the type with nickel-cadmium cells.
The European Aviation Safety Agency has granted a type certificate for the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 powered jet, with US FAA approval set to follow shortly.
While Airbus had originally designed the A350 to draw electrical power from lithium batteries, it deferred this plan after concerns emerged over the use of such batteries in the Boeing 787.
“There was a period when we weren’t sure the certification requirement for a lithium solution would have been stable,” says A350 programme chief Didier Evrard. “We didn’t want to take any risks.”
Airbus conducted tests of both battery types on its A350 prototype fleet although the last development aircraft, as the certification standard model, retained a nickel-cadmium battery.
“We gave a little time to the authorities to review the certification requirements for a lithium solution,” says Evrard.
“We didn’t have to change our initial design – the certification basis we’d taken into account, ourselves, was not changed.”
He says that Airbus considers its design “absolutely” safe and that, with the certification basis in place, it can progress towards completing the certification work on a lithium option for customers, which it intends to have in place in 2016.
The aircraft has been approved to operate at a maximum altitude of 43,100ft.
EASA’s certificate states that the A350 and A330 are “variants of the same type of aircraft” for purposes of pilot type ratings. It adds that the aircraft is cleared to transport 385 passengers with its basic exit configuration, and up to 440 with an optional exit layout.