(Reuters) – Airbus could steal the Paris air show with a flypast of its newest passenger jet, the A350, as confidence grows over a maiden flight some four weeks away.
The timescales of its previous airliner launches suggest the European manufacturer could be ready to fly the aircraft in mid-June, depending on weather and ground trials, giving pilots a narrow time window to test the plane’s basic characteristics in flight before the June 17-23 air show.
With just a few hours in the air, industry sources say it is unlikely that the first completed A350, rolled out of the Airbus paint shop only last week, will actually land at the show.
But if the first handful of flights go to plan, a 600-km (400-mile) trip to Le Bourget for a brief roar over its American rivals would ratchet up the PR war just as Boeing aims to recover from a three-month grounding of its 787 Dreamliner.
Airbus reiterated it plans to fly the A350 around the middle of the year and declined further comment on the plane’s debut.
However, the prospect of Airbus flaunting its newest jet from the air increased as photographs of an A350 logo painted on the plane’s belly circulated on the Internet. Such belly markings are typically used for branding in air show flypasts.
Media were kept away from a staff-only unveiling last week, but a corner of what looked like an A350 logo was just visible on official video that otherwise showed little of the underside, tweeted David Kaminski-Morrow of aviation website Flightglobal.
A flying debut is the signature moment in the development of any new plane, when the industry goes into publicity overdrive.
The first tests may also give Airbus the first indications of whether a $15-billion gamble on an aircraft to rival Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has paid off. The A350 is designed to offer airlines big savings on fuel thanks to a lightweight structure that follows on the heels of Boeing’s carbon-composite 787.
“If everything goes well, you can do a quick check of cruise performance even on the first flight,” said Claude Lelaie, who was head of flight testing at Airbus before he retired.
“Everyone is usually anxious to have a very preliminary idea of performance, and especially fuel consumption,” he said. He declined to comment specifically on the A350.
Airbus is showcasing its latest commercial and military product range at the 50th international Paris Air Show at Le Bourget from June 17th to 23rd, 2013. The latest innovations from the EADS Group will be on display and experts will be available to answer questions. Throughout the show, EADS human resource experts will hold a series of career workshops and events for students and attendees considering a future in the aerospace industry. Commercial announcements will also be made during the week.
An A400M (soon to be delivered to the French Air Force) and British Airways’ soon to be delivered first A380 will take the centre stage during the first few days of the show, followed by Airbus’ own flight test aircraft later in the week. Both aircraft types can be viewed on static and flying displays throughout the week. Watch out for the launch of the new A380 advertising campaign “Own the sky”.
Various commercial aircraft will be delivered to customers during the show, including Sharklet equipped A320s, an A330, and the 100th Airbus Military C295. An Airbus ACJ318 which has the widest and tallest cabin of any business jet will also be on static display.
A full life size A350 XWB cockpit and cabin section can be walked through at the EADS pavilion (Row A). Here visitors can experience the latest EADS group innovations that are shaping the future of aviation. This includes an e-Concept Plane, the latest ideas for silent aircraft taxiing, reduced emission flights and sustainable new energies. The latest developments in new energies can be viewed at the dedicated “Alternative Fuels” pavilion (Hall 1 – Stand D). Models of current EADS group wide products are on display at the EADS stand (Hall 2A – Rotonde).
Airbus’ international student competition “Fly Your Ideas” inspires young minds, and by putting innovation, creativity and people at the heart, Airbus aims to attract the world’s most talented individuals. In 2013, Airbus is recruiting 3,000 people globally to add to the 10,000 already hired since 2011. During the week visitors are invited to the EADS static area to leave their creative mark on a giant artwork to be entitled “Express Yourself – Design Your Future”.
WASHINGTON — Facing the prospect of dramatic budget cuts, the U.S. military may skip the Paris air show this year for the first time, Air Force officers said Friday.
The move is among an array of cost-saving measures the Air Force has drawn up in case Congress fails to clinch a budget deal by March 1.
Without an agreement in Congress to avert automatic spending cuts, military funding would be slashed by roughly $50 billion from March to the end of September, when the current fiscal year ends.
For the Air Force, the cuts would amount to about $12.4 billion, according to Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force.
If the automatic cuts go into effect, the Air Force plans to cancel a third of its flight hours through September, furlough 180,000 civilian employees and scrap deployment plans for some squadrons, among other steps, officials said.
In addition, “aircraft participation in airshows could be cancelled,” said Tonya Racasner, spokeswoman for the Air Force.
The Pentagon has always made a point of sending warplanes to major air shows, including the Paris showcase at Le Bourget and the Royal International Air Tatoo in Britain.
The technical team was up early to prepare the aircraft and Markus Scherdel, the test pilot, was at Solar Impulse HQ by 08:00 and raring to go.
At 10:00 the propellors started turning and the plane was airbourne in less than 10 second. The public was stunned. There was thunderous applause. After a week of enjoying fabulous displays, sometimes spectacular, but always noisy and polluting, Solar Impulse suddenly offered an astonishing alternative solution. HB-SIA soared above their heads slowly for twenty minutes, majesticly and silently.
The plane was the brainchild of two aviators — Bertrand Piccard, who made history with the world’s first round-the-world hot air balloon flight in 1999, and Andre Borschberg.
Next on the agenda is Solar Impulse Mark II, a modified version of the original plane which will have a bigger cabin — a necessity for that round-the-world flight in 2012.
Source and photo: Solar Impulse
Photo Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg: Rob Vogelaar, ZAPP