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.
Airbus notched up firm orders for a further 55 examples of its now-flying A350 XWB airliner yesterday here in Paris, with Air France-KLM and Singapore Airlines signing major deals. The European airframer now has 668 firm orders for the A350. And, for good measure, Airbus also managed yesterday to close a major fleet-upgrade MoU with Sri Lankan Airlines.
GE Aviation has started building components and is “on track” with its GE9X engine development to meet Boeing’s objective of improving fuel burn by 10 percent on the new 777X widebody.
Boeing got another big boost for its widebody lineup here yesterday when Korean Air committed to another five 747-8Is and six 777-300ERs worth $3.6 billion at list prices. Also a customer for the Airbus A380, Korean has now signaled its intention to place a second order for the superjumbo’s competitor, production of which Boeing recently cut from two airplanes to 1.75 per month. Boeing holds firm orders for just 40 Intercontinentals and 65 freighters.
Airbus’s A380 yesterday received a highly welcome boost from Doric Lease, which placed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the purchase of 20 of the superjumbos at the Paris Air Show.
Airbus began the 2,500-hour flight-test program for the A350 XWB when the new long-range widebody took off for the first time at almost exactly 10 a.m. local time in Toulouse, France, on Friday. The eagerly awaited first flight over southwestern France lasted slightly more than four hours and the twinjet, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, touched down safely back in Toulouse at 2:05 p.m.
Regardless of whether this week’s 50th Paris Air Show (June 17 to 23) sees a surprise fly-past by the newly airborne Airbus A350XWB widebody, the biennial event will open with expectations of yet more airliner orders further bolstering backlogs. Both Airbus and Boeing, which will display two 787 Dreamliners, are expected to announce further orders.
“The honeymoon has lasted longer than on previous aircraft: people go out of their way to fly on [the A380 very-large airliner],” according to Airbus programs executive vice-president Tom Williams. By the beginning of this month, the European manufacturer had delivered 103 aircraft from the 262 for which it holds firm orders, leaving a backlog of 159, equivalent to about six years’ production.
Airbus is understandably relieved to have flown the A350 XWB widebody just before the Paris Air Show, but the European manufacturer’s twin-aisle family accounts for only a small proportion of outstanding orders as it prepares to proceed with the new aircraft’s flight-test program. Nevertheless, deliveries of 247 aircraft overall and net orders for 493 new jets by June 1 constitute a “strong start” to 2013 for the European manufacturer, according to marketing senior vice-president Christopher Emerson. Airbus delivered 588 aircraft in 2012 and expects to ship more than 600 this year.
The oft-critiqued Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (747-8I) program appears finally to have found its stride following a series of development delays and struggles with performance shortcomings. Needing to adjust to soft demand in the very-large widebody market, however, Boeing (Chalets A324 and B321) recently cut 747-8 production rates from two to 1.75 per month and its 20-year projection for the large widebody market segment by 4 percent, leading to inevitable questions about the long-term viability of the latest iteration of the Queen of the Skies.