“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 keeping a tight lid on the A350’s progress ahead of the maiden flight and broke with tradition by deciding not to hold a lavish “roll-out” party for its new model.
But suppliers say the mood emanating from the A350 design team is notably more upbeat than the painful launch almost a decade ago of the A380 superjumbo, the world’s largest airliner.
Before flying, the A350 must pass a series of ground tests.
“No machine as complex can be perfect straight away,” said Lelaie, who took the A380 on its maiden flight in April 2005.
The timing of the equivalent first flight for the A350 will depend in part on when Lelaie’s successors in the flight team agree to take the aircraft from the developers.