Ultra long-range Airbus A350 XWB completes maiden flight
In March, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner set a new record for the world's longest commercial route, but that may not stand for long with the arrival of the latest version of the Airbus Ultra Long Range A350 XWB. The twin-engined aircraft made its maiden flight from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France as part of a short test program to certify a number of modifications to increase its range and efficiency.
When Qantas opened its first direct flight from Perth to London on March 25, it was a new milestone in commercial aviation, but it seems as if the 9,000 mile (14,498 km) non-stop route won't hold the crown for long. Scheduled to enter service with Singapore Airlines later this year, the new A350 will exploit its 9,700 nm (11,163 mi, 17,964 km) range on the first direct Singapore to New York passenger flights – a trip of 9,500 mi (15,218 km).
Designated MSN 216, the new A350 XWB sports a number of tweaks to improve its range, including a modified fuel system that increases fuel capacity by 24,000 l (5,279 gal) without needing external fuel tanks, as well as extended winglets, and a carbon fiber fuselage and wings. Put together, this results in a takeoff weight of 280 tonnes and allows for 20 hours of non-stop flying time, a new commercial range record and a 25 percent reduction in fuel use and emissions as well as noise reduction.
Development at an estimated cost of €12 billion, the A350 XWB comes in three variants seating 270 to 350 passengers in three class layouts. It's powered by two Rolls Royce XWB Trent engines that put out 84,000 lb of thrust each and were built especially for the plane, which has a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (903 km/h, 561 mph, 487 knots).
Airbus says that so far it has 854 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 45 customers around the world.