Two Airbus A350 XWB test planes took to the skies for the first time today, doubling the size of the fleet that will log 2,500 flight hours before the new jetliner is delivered to any customers.
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, it will come in three variants, the 800, 900, and 1000. Those will carry between 276 and 369 people.
The planes, dubbed MSN2 and MSN4, took off from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. MSN1 and MSN3 are already in service and have logged nearly 1,100 flight test hours. One more test aircraft will be built, and deliveries of the plane should begin in the fourth quater of 2014.
MSN2, with the “carbon-inspired livery”, is the first A350 aircraft with a full passenger cabin, although Airbus has not provided any photos of the interior.
It is also the aircraft that will carry the first A350 passengers on early long flights, though the plane maker has not determined who those passengers will be. During testing of the A380 jumbo jet, 2,000 Airbus employees helped test the cabin environment and systems in flight.
Here are some photos from the first test flights:
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