Three’s A Crowd: German Government’s Last A350 Takes Flight

The third of three Airbus A350 aircraft bound for the German government has taken its first flight in Toulouse. The aircraft is part of a fleet expected to replace the county’s aging Airbus A340 aircraft, which have been prone to technical issues.

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The third and final Airbus A350 bound for the German Air Force has completed its first flight. Photo: Clément Alloing

While the Airbus A350 has proven to be especially popular with passenger airlines, as such a large aircraft it has few non-commercial operators. So far, one German operator has a single non-commercial aircraft, alongside the three bound for the German government. Only one of the government’s jets is currently operational, with the second being outfitted by Lufthansa Technik.

First flight for 10+02

10+02 will be the third and final Airbus A350 to be taken up by the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force). The jet recently took its first flight out of Airbus’ Toulouse facility, where it was built. The aircraft is currently flying under the Airbus test registration F-WZHF.

According to flight data from RadarBox.com, the aircraft took off from Toulouse’s Runway 14R at 13:36 on Friday. The highest altitude reached during the first test flight was recorded as 43,000 feet.

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The test flight lasted over five hours. Photo: RadarBox.com

The aircraft initially flew out to the Bay of Biscay for the test. The pilots then performed some lower and slower maneuvers over the South of France near Toulouse. The jet landed back at the Airbus facility at 18:46 after just over five hours in the air.

October delivery?

10+02, named Theodor Heuss after the first president of the German federal republic, is still a long way from entering service. The aircraft will be the third to enter service after 10+01, which arrived at Lufthansa to receive its cabin in April. 10+01 is named Konrad Adenauer after modern Germany’s first Chancellor.

This aircraft (10+01) isn’t due to be ready until next autumn. Assuming it takes the same amount of time to outfit the cabin, this means that 10+02 likely won’t be ready for service until early 2023.

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It will be several years yet before the fleet is fully operational. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

The work isn’t done then

Lufthansa Technik’s work isn’t over once the third and final Airbus A350 is delivered to the Luftwaffe. The air force will then return the first Airbus A350 to Lufthansa’s maintenance division.

10+03, named Kurt Schumacher after the first leader of the opposition in Germany, is currently flying with a transitional cabin. The cabin was designed to be quick to install in the interest of getting the jet in service ASAP. Now that the A350-900 is serving the government, more time can be spent outfitting the other two A350s. However, Lufthansa Technik will rip out the transitional cabin and then fit the “fully-fledged VIP cabin” once this work is done.

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Lufthansa Technik is installing VIP cabins into each aircraft. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

The full fleet

All in all, the Luftwaffe will take delivery of three new Airbus A350-900 aircraft to replace two aging Airbus A340-300 aircraft, both aged over 20. The aircraft’s names have been carried forward from the initial A310 fleet. According to ch-aviation.com and other sources, the entire fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft will contain,

  • 10+01 – Name: Konrad Adenauer – MSN: 468 – First Flight: November 18th, 2020
  • 10+02 – Name: Theodor Heuss – MSN: 526 – First Flight: September 24th, 2021
  • 10+03 – Name: Kurt Schumacher – MSN: 416 – First Flight: February 21st, 2020
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Three A350s will replace two aging Airbus A340 aircraft. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

The two cabins

The transitional cabin installed in 10+03 may not entirely be to the standards of the full VIP experience. However, it is fully equipped to carry Germany’s political elite to functions around the globe.

According to Lufthansa Technik, the aircraft has office and conference areas. A multi-functional lounge area accompanies these for the traveling politician to sit in. The remainder of the political delegation travels separately in the rear of the cabin. All of these areas are currently in a reasonably open design.

The cabin’s openness will change on 10+01 and 10+02 before eventually being fitted to 10+03. Instead of the open cabin, the area between the politicians traveling and their delegations will be “structurally separated from one another”, a feature found in the older Airbus A340-300 cabins.

Replacing the Airbus A340-300s

Unlike Air Force One, its German counterparts have certainly racked up the hours over the past two decades. As they age, they have suffered some high-profile technical incidents. Notably, Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to fly in Iberia’s business class cabin to South America in December 2018.

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The Airbus A350s will replace the aging Airbus A340s carrying the same names. Photo: Getty Images

The first Airbus A340-300 is 16+01, also named Konrad Adenauer. According to ch-aviation.com, the 22.43-year-old aircraft had clocked some 53,578 flight hours across 8,014 flights until June 30th. Meanwhile, 16+02, unsurprisingly also named Theodor Heuss, has been used less. At the age of 21.09 years, the jet has completed 8,224 flight cycles, equalling 49,520 hours in the air.

Altering the livery

The current livery worn by the Airbus A350s is slightly different from what 10+03 was painted in when first delivered. The words “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (Federal Republic of Germany), have been updated to the “Bundes Sans” font.

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The font for Bundesrepublik Deutschland has been changed from what is seen here. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

Additionally, the wingtips are fully painted with the German flag. On the first iteration of the design, only a stripe of the German flag appeared on the wingtips.

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The wingtip flag design also used to be less noticeable. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

An incredibly long-range jet

The Luftwaffe’s Airbus A350-900 has already shown its potential as an incredibly long-range jet, should the capability be required. Last November, the aircraft operated the longest Airbus A350 flight to date. On November 20th, 10+03 departed its home base in Cologne. The aircraft then flew to Canberra non-stop, landing some 19 hours and 13 minutes after its departure.

The journey was 8,930 nautical miles as the crow flies and passed through eight countries between Germany and Australia. Rather than also flying back in one go, the jet flew back in two steps, stopping in Papeete in French Polynesia.

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The German flag carrier Lufthansa has a slightly shorter record flight than the government, though it was also completed with an Airbus A350-900. The airline flew an Airbus A350-900 non-stop from Hamburg to the Falkland Islands in late March, clocking in at 15 hours and 44 minutes. While Lufthansa’s jet was comparatively lightly loaded, the German government’s record flight would’ve been even more sparsely filled.

Are you excited to see Germany’s last Airbus A350 take flight? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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