Airbus has introduced the A350-900 to travellers outside of the company with a special media flight to coincide with a briefing on the programme at Toulouse.
Just shy of one year since the A350’s maiden flight, the airframer secured approval to remove MSN2 from the flight-test programme temporarily in order to carry out the 12 June service for around 200 members of the press.
The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered aircraft departed Toulouse runway 32L, after a ground run of 31s, at a weight of 192t including 30t of fuel for the one-hour trip.
Flight-test controllers took responsibility for the A350 to ensure separation from regular traffic.
After take-off, at about 135kt, the aircraft headed west towards Lourdes, climbing to around 31,000ft.
Under a co-operative arrangement with military controllers at Mont-de-Marsan the A350 underwent an intercept exercise involving a Dassault Rafale fighter.
“They often ask to come and intercept for their own practice,” says A350 test pilot Peter Chandler.
The fighter was instructed to maintain 500m separation, because the A350 was carrying passengers. “Normally they’ll come closer than that,” says Chandler, adding that distances of 100m are not unusual.
MSN2, which had logged some 155h by the beginning of June, is one of two cabin-equipped A350s in the test fleet.
The aircraft flew eastwards, parallel to the Pyrenees mountain range, before turning right and briefly overflying Spanish territory, then descending back towards Toulouse, landing at a weight of 186t having burned about 6t of fuel.
Airbus flight-test senior vice-president Fernando Alonso, who was also on board, said he was “prudently optimistic” over the progress on A350 certification since the maiden flight on 14 June last year.
“There’s not much time for celebration because there’s a lot of work still to do,” he says.
A350 head of development flight test Patrick du Che says the fleet will shortly pass 2,000h – from a campaign due to last 2,500h – and that the airframer is achieving its highest test-flight rates with the type, flying some 80h per month.
The second cabin-fitted A350, MSN5, is to fly “very soon”, he says, with a maiden sortie intended by the end of June. “Then we’ll concentrate the certification activities on this aircraft,” says du Che.
MSN5 will carry out route proving including a three-week campaign during which the aircraft will accumulate around 200h operating to several destinations around the world.