Feature – The Airbus A350 XWB

Aviation, Features

Airbus – a name familiar to the entire world and a company that has been at the forefront of aviation technology for the last 40 years. The manufacturer brought their latest two-aisle airliner to Farnborough International Airshow earlier this Summer and I was lucky enough to be shown around the flying test bed.


MSN004’s flight test systems

Originally conceived back in 2004, the original A350 was mostly an all-new design but with the main fuselage based on the popular A330. After several meetings and focus groups with potential customers, this idea was rejected and as a result, the A350 XWB (Xtra Wide Wody) was born. As a direct competitor to Boeing’s 787-x series of airliners, Airbus promised that the A350 XWB would have operating costs at least 8% lower than the Dreamliner.


The A350 XWB is a direct competitor to the Boeing 787-x Dreamliner


Passenger comfort and airline operating costs are clearly at the heart of the design for the A350 XWB.

The A350 XWB is the first aircraft that Airbus have manufactured which is built, in most part, out of a carbon-fibre composite and unlike previous Airbus models, the fuselage width is exactly the same (9 seats in a 3-3-3 layout) along it’s entire length from door one to door four.


The fuselage is the same width throughout the cabin

With a wingspan of 64.8m and a surface area of approximately 443 metres squared, the A350 XWB boasts the largest wings ever produced for a single deck, two-aisle airliner. The aircraft is also the first to feature the manufacturer’s unique ‘sharklet’ wing tips which it says are the latest advancement in aerodynamic wing design.


The new wing design and complex composite wide body mean that the aircraft is capable of reducing fuel burn by at least 25% when compared to previous generation competing aircraft. For customer’s looking for a single deck, long-haul aircraft, figures like that are more than enough to sign on the dotted line.


The cabin design is heavily inspired by the internationally acclaimed A380 with extra large overhead compartments (capable of taking full-size roller bags), full LED lighting systems which are capable of producing 16.7 million different colours and enhanced leg room in all classes. The increased leg room space is achieved by having brand new, fully integrated seat-connect and cabling boxes that are virtually invisible to passengers as they’re run under a full flat floor.



Testing and Delivery

Amazingly for a modern day airliner; manufacturing, development and testing is all on schedule and the aircraft should be ready for certification by the end of this year.

MSN005 (test aircraft five and the last to be developed) is currently conducting route proving flights to demonstrate the aircraft’s operability, reliability and all round excellent performance that the fuselage and Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine can deliver. The Trent XWB testing began back in 2011 when it was fitted to one of the development A380 test beds and was certified several months later at the end of that year.


The A350 XWB is fitted with two Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines


The Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine was tested on a development A380

With 12 months of testing on all five development aircraft due to finish shortly, launch customer Qatar Airways will receive its first aircraft in Q3-Q4 2014.

The Future

Even with the Emirates order for 70 aircraft cancelled, the future of the Airbus A350 XWB is looking bright. To date, 742 aircraft have been ordered across all three varients by some 38 airlines including; Air Asia, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, British Airways, United and Singapore Airlines.


The Xtra Wide Body, twin aisle aircraft will benefit both passengers and airlines alike.

This is Airbus at it’s finest, this is the future.

Farnborough International Airshow 2014 – Monday Highlights


Farnborough International Airshow got underway today at the Hampshire airfield and there was certainly plenty to keep an eye on.


  • Airbus launches the A330neo which will be the first aircraft to feature the brand new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines. The new Widebody aircraft will be capable of reducing current A330 fuel consumption by 14% per seat and also increase the range by 400 nautical miles. The Neo will also incorporate features from the A350 XWB like the small winglets and engine pylons.
  • Almost immediately after launch came the news that Air Lease Corporation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 25 A330neo and 60 A321neo aircraft.
  • Boeing debuted their latest model of the infamous (albeit for the wrong reasons) Dreamliner, the 787-9. The variant is a 10 ft, 10-frame stretch of the existing 8 model. Due to the number of orders received, Boeing had to work as quickly as they could to get this model into production.
  • Qatar Airways continue to support the show with an almost unprecedented three aircraft on display; the sharklet-equipped A320, A350-900 prototype and their Boeing 787-8. There would have been a fourth aircraft present in the shape of their A380 but due to disagreements with their order, the airline reluctantly pulled the display.
  • Announced on July 12th, Saab and the Empire Test Pilots’ School have extended their contract with the Gripen for an additional four years.
  • Also announced in a late afternoon press release from FIA – ‘By 15.00 this afternoon there were firm orders and commitments for 326 large commercial jets and regional aircraft with a combined value of US$33.3bn. In addition there were orders and commitments for a total of 674 jet engines with a combined value of $8.6bn.’
  • The F-35B was notably absent and the grounding order is still in effect at the time of writing.