Airbus A350 XWB to be tested at Wellington Airport

1 Jun 2018

Airbus A350 XWB to be tested at Wellington Airport

Wellingtonians will get a glimpse of one of the world’s newest widebody planes when an Airbus A350 XWB touches down at Wellington Airport on Sunday evening 3 June.

Wellington Airport has organised with leading aerospace manufacturer Airbus to test the performance of the A350-900 on shorter, grooved runways with a series of landings and take-offs at the airport.

The plane will travel to Wellington from Airbus flight test facility in Toulouse via Manila and is one of the five A350-900 test aircraft that the manufacturer used to achieve flight certification in 2013-2014. It is fully fitted with flight test instrumentation. The trial flights will be operated by an Airbus flight test crew.

Steve Sanderson, Chief Executive of Wellington Airport, said: “We are pleased to welcome one of the world’s newest and most innovative aircraft to Wellington. The trial will show the maximum performance of our runway and what it can deliver for Airbus aircraft.”

“The visit is part of Airbus’ continuous programme of performance tests where the company evaluates aircraft in specific operating environments and conditions.”

The A350 has a longer range than the aircraft currently using Wellington, but the airport’s shorter runway length constrains the loads and distance of some single aisle jets and all twin aisle jets.

While the testing of the aircraft is not related to the airport’s proposed runway extension it will help further inform the existing data for Airbus, said Mr Sanderson.

“The testing will show the different combinations of loads and distance an A350 can reach off Wellington’s runway. This trial is about determining future performance for Wellington as more of these aircraft enter the fleet in the Asia-Pacific.”

“There is a worldwide trend among airlines to use direct, otherwise known as point-to-point, fuel efficient aircraft with seating capacity matched to demand. This enables efficient, sustainable routes to be opened up to cater for the ever growing demand in air travel, especially in the Asia-Pacific region which is one of the fastest growing in the World.”

This testing is also important as Wellington is an integral part of New Zealand’s air traffic system and it will show the options for aircraft needing to divert from other destinations, as well as facilities for special visits.

The conditions for the test are ideal when there is reasonable amount of rain and light winds. Wellington’s grooved runway assists the surface water to flow off and improve friction for wheel braking. Wellington’s wind in most cases assists aircraft by providing extra resistance on landing and assistance with lift on take-off. So ideally there is limited wind when the testing is being undertaken. The results will add to Airbus database of performance in these particular conditions.

The A350 XWB is Airbus’ all-new mid-size long-range aircraft family, seating 325 to 366 passengers in a typical 3-class configuration, respectively for the A350-900 and the A350-1000, with a range of 8,100nm. The plane’s design incorporates state-of-the-art aerodynamics and its airframe is made out of more than 50% of light weight carbon fibre reinforced polymer. Powered by the new Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, the A350 XWB offers 25% step change in fuel efficiency and generates 25% less CO2 emissions.

At the end of April, there were 832 A350s on order, from 44 customers, with already 167 of them in operation around the world.