On its third test flight, the Airbus A350XWB flew past President Francois Hollande this afternoon on the final business day of the 2013 Paris Air Show. After two hours of cruise flight tests, the new aircraft made a curving descent toward Runway 27 for a single flyby. Earlier, the President had arrived from the Villacoublay air force base in the first production A400M airlifter for the French air force.
The last-minute appearance of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350 at Le Bourget came almost exactly one week after Airbus began the 2,500-hour flight test program for the new widebody when it took off for the first time at its Toulouse headquarters on June 14. The first flight aircraft is one of five A350s that will be used in a test program that should see the new A350-900 version enter service with Qatar Airways in the second half of 2014.
Three versions of the A350XWB will go into production with seating for between 270 and 350 passengers in three-class cabin configurations. According to Airbus, the new model will burn 25 percent less fuel than existing aircraft in its class, with equivalent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The program is currently backed by 613 firm orders from 33 customers.