Virgin Atlantic’s new A350-1000 is looking stunning, with its new flying icon applied and that incredible Upper Class product ready to fly. However, there’s one thing we want to know about Red Velvet, and that’s why she’s wearing a mask?
While pretty much every avgeek in the UK has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the A350-1000 in not one but TWO UK liveries this year, one particular element of the aircraft has caused more fascination than most.
Is it the wonderful new premium product that both airlines have debuted on this aircraft? Or perhaps the super quiet operation and jetlag reducing interior developments? Or maybe those ridiculously powerful Rolls Royce XWB engines?
No. It’s none of those things. It’s the aircraft’s Zorro-esque mask.
Why Virgin’s A350 wears a mask
You might think that this is something of a marketing gimmick by Airbus, perhaps to help differentiate its flagship new planes from others in the marketplace. But, while the mask certainly makes recognizing an A350 easier, it actually serves a functional purpose too. Sort of.
No A350 can be, or will ever be, delivered without this distinctive eye makeup. To find out why, Virgin Atlantic asked Airbus directly for an explanation. They said,
“The A350 XWB is the first ever Airbus aircraft with curved cockpit glasses. These cockpit windows offer more than just the most futuristic, aesthetic and distinctive look. The new windshield enhances the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft. The perfectly curved shape of the nose helps the air flow hug the surface, in the least turbulent manner, thereby reducing drag.”
In plain English, this means that the design of the nose of the A350 employs maximum aerodynamic goodness to reduce fuel burn and make it as efficient as possible. As well as the nose cone, it’s glamorous curves extend to the windscreen too, the first Airbus to enjoy this feature.
As well as providing better aerodynamic efficiency, Airbus say that the curved windows make it easier for pilots to see the surrounding area. This should make it easier to maintain a line of communication with ground crew, making airport movements easier and safer. But that still doesn’t explain why it’s painted black? Airbus continued,
“The emblematic “Ray-Ban” like black windshield eases the window’s maintenance and contributes to harmonising the thermal condition of this temperature-sensitive window area.”
We’re not entirely sure what is meant by ‘harmonising the thermal condition’ of the windscreen, but the maintenance issue is easy to grasp. As Leeham News previously reported, the A350 windscreens need to be replaced from the outside, meaning the surrounds need to be removed to do this.
Rather than being reliant on touching up the paintwork of these window surrounds in exacting airline livery colors, Airbus went for the easy option and supplied them in one color only. As Leeham News said, that’s “any color you want as long as it is black.”
More masks coming
You’ve got to admit that the A350’s black mask looks really quite cool. This is a fact that hasn’t passed Airbus by either. Although the A330neo doesn’t have the same gorgeously curved windows of the A350, it does still sport a Zorro style mask.
Airbus made the decision to black out the window surrounds on the A330neo back in 2015, as reported at the time by Flight Global. The reason for this was that both the A350XWB and the A330neo represent the future long haul Airbus family, and as such it was only natural to align the appearance between the two aircraft.
While there are no plans in place to start painting narrowbodies with black eye makeup, the bandit mask should, for the time being, make it a whole lot easier to spot a modern Airbus widebody at the airport.