(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”.