Airbus, Boeing’s chief rival in the aerospace industry, brought its new jet to the Singapore Air Show this week.
We’ve been seeing photos of the A350 XWB for months, and it did a special fly-over during the Paris Air Show in June.
But this is the first time the public had the chance to go near the thing.
The A350 XWB, in the works for nearly a decade, is an effort to push the envelope in passenger comfort, aerodynamics, and fuel efficiency.
One of the first commercial jets to be made primarily of composite materials instead of metal, the A350 will come in three variants, the 800, 900, and 1000. They will carry between 276 and 369 people.
The variants of Boeing’s Dreamliner, another composite jet, seat between 242 and 323 passengers (though airlines can make special arrangements for more or fewer seats).
Boeing had the jump on Airbus, delivering the first Dreamliner in September 2011. But two battery malfunctions a week apart in January 2013 led to a federally mandated grounding, hurting the planemaker’s reputation and bottom line.
Eager to avoid such a costly debacle, Airbus has been careful rolling out the A350. But it’s now moving through the testing phase at a rapid clip — roughly twice the rate it used on its last new plane, according to Aviation Week.
Like Boeing's Dreamliner, the A350 is made mostly from composite materials, not metal. That makes the whole plane lighter and more fuel-efficient.
Fuel efficiency is the big draw: Airbus says the A350 will burn 25% less fuel than the previous generation of comparable jets.
The A350 has curved winglets that measure 17 feet, to improve aerodynamics. The plane is designed to cruise at Mach 0.85 (85% the speed of sound), a standard pace for long-haul jets.
The largest A350, the 1000, will be able to fly 8,400 nautical miles (9,667 miles) on a full tank of gas.
The flight deck is designed to be ergonomic and easy to use for pilots accustomed to different Airbus planes. This cockpit, in test aircraft MSN1, was powered up for the first time in August 2012.
The jetliner is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines that generate nearly 100,000 pounds of thrust, and are key in reducing the A350's fuel consumption.
In February, Airbus announced its decision not to use the lithium-ion batteries that caused the Dreamliner so much trouble (like the one pictured here, which overheated). The A350 will be powered by nickel cadmium batteries, which are 'proven and mastered.'
Airbus hasn't built an A350 with a passenger cabin yet (that's coming soon), so we'll have to work with renderings of the interior.
The plane's interior is meant to be revolutionary as well. The cabin will be lit with energy-efficient LEDs that come in various colours and can mimic day and night, to help passengers deal with jet lag.
It's more crowded in economy, with nine seats per row. That gives each passenger 18 inches of seat width.
Like the Dreamliner, the composite A350 has larger windows than traditional jets. These are the widest of any jetliner, according to Airbus.
But before Airbus can deliver any of the 800 A350 XWBs it has taken orders for, there's a lot of work to do.
Planes have to stand up to things like lightning strikes. Most planes are hit by lightning about once every two years.
Before the A350 took off for the first time, Airbus tested how far its wings would bend before breaking. Test Manager Emmanuel Bodin said 'We will torture it a lot of times.'
The plane took to the sky for the first time in June 2013, flying for four hours over southwestern France.
A week later, the A350 made its first public appearance, flying over the crowd at the Paris Air Show.
But there's a lot of testing left to do -- the A350 will log 2,500 flight hours before it's delivered to any customers.
To speed that process up, Airbus will build five planes, its biggest test fleet ever. By 2018, it wants to crank out 10 per month.
The flight test program is going better than expected, Airbus says. The two test planes it has built so far are flying about 100 hours a month, double the rate of previous programs.
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