8 Years Ago Today The Airbus A350 Made Its First Flight

Eight years ago today, the first Airbus A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) completed its first flight, touching down at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) at 14:05 local time. Flying the aircraft was Airbus Chief Test Pilot Peter Chandler and Project Pilot for the A350 XWB Guy Magrin. Accompanying the two pilots on the flight was A350 XWB Project Test Flight Engineer Pascal Verneau.

Airbus A350-900
The A350s maiden flight lasted four hours. Photo: Airbus

For its maiden flight, the aircraft took off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) runway 32L/14R and flew around southwestern France for four hours while the flight crew tested the aircraft’s flight envelope. To observe and film the aircraft and its maneuvers was a chase plane. As well as the chase plane, Airbus engineers on the ground monitored the plane’s performance via a direct telemetry link.

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Airbus used five A350s for flight tests

When speaking about the Aircraft’s maiden flight in an Airbus statement, Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier said,

“I congratulate the whole A350 XWB development team for having completed the first flight preparation in a record time. I also wish to thank the first flight crew today for taking this aircraft where it wants to be – in the sky.”

He added,

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to all our teams in the design offices, at program and manufacturing level, the ground crews as well as our colleagues in airlines and suppliers and many others who helped define this all-new aircraft. The A350 XWB, which has flown today, integrating the latest available technologies, is now entering the final stage of its development. And it is ready. Ready to head towards certification and entry-into-service in the second half of next year.”

Airbus A350-900
Airbus used five A350s for test flights. Photo: Airbus

While a considerable milestone for the Airbus A350 project, that first flight was just the beginning of a rigorous testing campaign. For the flight tests, Airbus used five A350s and clocked up a total of around 2,500 flight hours.

Qatar Airways was the A350s launch customer

Following the completion of flight testing, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued the aircraft type certification in September 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed suit issuing its type certification two months later.

Qatar Airways A350
Qatar Airways was the launch customer for the A350-900. Photo: Airbus

Qatar Airways, the global launch customer for the Airbus A350, took delivery of its first A350 XWB at a ceremony held in Toulouse on December 22, 2014. The aircraft entered into service with the Gulf Carrier on January 15, 2015, and was placed on the airline’s daily Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) route. For its A350-900s, Qatar Airways opted for a two-class configuration that comprises 36 business class and 247 economy class seats.

Designed to compete with the Dreamliner

The Airbus A350 project began in 2006 and was designed to allow the European planemaker to compete with Boeing 787 Dreamliners and future 777s. At the time, many airline executives criticized Airbus for trying to play catch up to Boeing. Little did they know what a success the plane would prove to be and how much the flying public would like it.

As of last month, Airbus had received orders for 950 A350s with the shorter A350-900 that first flew eight years ago today by far the most popular version.

Have you flown on an Airbus A350 yet? If so, please tell us what you like about the plane and what you don’t like in the comments.