The Airbus A350, the world’s newest wide-body commercial aircraft, just completed an important step in its certification process by finishing a 20-day, 14-stop journey that took the $295 million jet around the world in 180 flight hours.
“We are set for the Type Certification in the coming weeks, as planned,” Fernando Alonso, senior vice president for testing at Airbus, said in the announcement. Type certificates are issued by air transport regulatory bodies like the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Once a jet receives the certification, no further changes can be made to its design.
The 314-seat A350-900 completed its so-called route-proving runs after landing in Toulouse, France, on Wednesday afternoon from Helsinki, Finland, on a route that began in Perth, Australia. The plane traveled 81,700 miles (151,300 km), including an ultralong-range flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Santiago de Chile via Australia and New Zealand.
Last month, the A350 successfully carried an aborted-takeoff test in which the aircraft reached takeoff speed on a runway before pilots laid on the brakes, which heated them to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,400 C) as the plane skidded to a halt. Under certification rules the aircraft must be able to sit for five minutes with super-heated brakes without catching fire. Originally conceived a decade ago as a competitor to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 777 wide-body long haulers, the A350’s fuselage and wings are made from a weight-saving carbon-fiber reinforced polymer. The $15-billion A350 XWB program includes three models, but orders for the 270-seat A350-800 have been so weak the plane may never be built.
There are currently 548 orders for the 314-seat A350-900 – the plane that just completed its world tour – while the 350-seat A350-1000 has 178 orders. The A350-800 version currently has only 22 on order after a spate of cancellations, mostly in favor of larger models.