Airbus May Deliver A350 Ahead of Deadline, Qatar Air Says

An Airbus SAS A350
An Airbus SAS A350 XWB flight test aircraft (MSN3) stands on display at the Singapore Airshow. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Airbus Group NV may be able to deliver its latest A350 aircraft before deadline as the manufacturer is ahead of schedule in testing, according to Qatar Airways Ltd., the plane’s biggest customer.

The A350 is due for delivery to Qatar Air in December, Akbar Al Baker, the airline’s chief executive officer, said in Singapore today. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 of the plane.

Airbus let its new A350 play hooky for a few days from rigorous flight testing to show off the plane at the Singapore Airshow as it seeks to build on orders that takes on Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner and 777s. Successful flight trials so far have earned it a few days off, Fernando Alonso, senior vice president for flight and integration tests, said earlier this week.

The twin-aisle A350’s appearance at Singapore is evidence that flight checks have advanced enough for Airbus to take the jet out of testing briefly. The aircraft, about half made from carbon fiber composites, has won 814 orders from 39 customers including Qatar, Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co.

Airbus used to fly 50 hours to 55 hours a month on former flight programs. On A350 the company has been routinely flying 100 hours a month, because of the extremely good preparation done in advance of flights, Alonso said.

Airbus first flew the jet on June 14 and conducted a fly-by days later at the Paris Air Show, the industry’s highest-profile gathering. Airbus’s two test planes so far have logged 1,000 test hours, out of a total of about 2,500 hours required ahead of certification.

The A350 has also been to Bolivia, in Latin America, to test flying in high altitudes and to Northern Canada to check its capacity to withstand cold temperatures, flying at minus 28 degrees centigrade, Alonso said.

Airbus has also began letting airline pilots fly the plane. Yesterday Alonso’s team shared the cockpit with two Singapore Air pilots, giving them controls after half hour lessons, and in Doha, two Qatar pilots also took the controls, Alonso said.

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