Seven years after plans for the Airbus A350 XWB (extra wide body) were first revealed at the Farnborough Air Show in 2006, the aircraft took to the air for the first time on June 14. The maiden flight saw the aircraft in the skies of southwestern France for four hours and five minutes before returning to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
The Airbus A350 XWB is a family of two-engined, long-range jet airliners that will range in size from the 60.5 m (198 ft) long A350-800, which can carry 270 passengers, up to the 73.5 m (241 ft) long A350-1000, which can carry up to 350 passengers.
The prototype aircraft that flew on June 14 was an A350-900 variant that sits in between the 800 and 1000 variants. It measures 66.8 m (219 ft) long and seats up to 314 passengers in a typical three-class cabin nine-abreast layout. However, only a crew of six was on board for the maiden flight. All variants feature a fuselage that measures 5.9 m (20 ft) wide and 6 m (20 ft) high.
All three variants are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, which Rolls-Royce calls “the most efficient flying in the world today.” Airbus says the A350 XWB family uses 25 percent less fuel and emits 25 percent less CO2 than other existing aircraft in the same size category.
The test flight saw the crew explore the aircraft’s flight envelope in the skies of southwestern France, accompanied by a chase plane that observed and filmed the various maneuvers. Experts on the ground also monitored the flight via a direct telemetry link.
The four-hour flight marks the beginning of the A350 XWB test flight campaign that will see five A350s racking up around 2,500 flight hours on its way to the aircraft’s certification before entering service with Qatar Airways in the second half of 2014.