Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

Tag: a350

Airbus A350-1000 Maiden Flight

On Thursday November the 23rd, the new Airbus A350-1000 made its maiden flight at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse Blagnac, France. The aircraft took of at 10:42am local time with two Airbus test pilots and four engineers. Though the weather wasn’t great, spectators and planespotters gathered to watch the first takeoff of the new aircraft. Watch the official video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDY7oPUti8I

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The first A350-1000 lifting off on its maiden flight – Photo from Airbus press release

 

Spotting the Cathay and Finnair A350’s

As someone that goes planespotting a lot (as in so often that I feel like my hearing is worsening), I often get bored of having to watch the exact same flights come in and out the airport every time. Though HKG is a really big and busy airport, the flight schedules are pretty much the same each day and things can get real bland real fast. That’s why I get pretty excited about special liveries or non-typical aircraft movements, in this case the arrival of the Cathay and Finnair A350’s.

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Finnair A350 OH-LWC

Cathay Pacific A350 delivery set for May 29

After more than three months of delays due to issues with seat manufacturing, Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350-900 twinjet airliner is set to be delivered on Sunday, the 29th of May 2016. 

The aircraft completed its maiden flight and tests last month and was scheduled to perform its first passenger flight on May 1st after after it was realized that the original February deadline (that was set last year) could not be made. 

The delivery date has already been postponed twice (see my post “Cathay Pacific A350 delayed again”) but it is guaranteed that no more delays will occur as the aircraft has already been prepared for delivery.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 launch delayed

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Airbus A350 XWB – Photo by jmiguel rodriguez CC 2.0

Recently, to the disappointment of the Hong Kong spotting community, it was announced that the delivery of Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350 XWB would once again be delayed. Their first A350 (c/n 029) of the 46 that they have on order successfully completed its maiden flight at Airbus’ testing facility in April with test registration F-WZFX and is still waiting to be fitted with seats before it will be delivered to Cathay as B-LRA.

Both delays are due to issues with the manufacture of Cathay’s long-haul business class seats that will be installed on the aircraft. The majority of the blame lies on French manufacturer Zodiac Seats, who have been severely behind-schedule in their production and have been receiving plenty of (justified) criticism from Airbus and Boeing for delaying deliveries. Cathay Pacific is also guilty of making last-minute adjustments to the design of their business class seats that have complicated matters and slowed production.

Cathay announces first flight of A350 XWB

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the passing of something old is always complemented by the arrival of something new. With the retirement of Cathay’s passenger 747-400’s comes the launch of their A350’s. While I do not think this is a fair trade-off, at least 2016 won’t be a year of only sadness as Cathay retires their 744’s and 343’s. Cathay’s first A350, a -900 variant, will be delivered late April 2016. I believe the original date was set for February, however the delivery was delayed due to issues with the seat manufacturing. As is common whenever an airline takes delivery of a new aircraft type, Cathay plans to operate their first few A350’s on short-haul intra-Asia flights for crew familiarization before setting them off to fly the long-haul routes to Europe and the Middle East that they were meant for.  The first Cathay A350 revenue flight is set for May 1st 2016 and will be the morning flight CX900 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Manila (MNL). The aircraft will return to Hong Kong around noon as CX901 and later in the day fly to Taipei (TPE) and back as CX400/401. CX900/901 to MNL is a daily flight and CX400/401 to TPE will be operated 5-6 times a week. Afterwards, from July 1st 2016, the A350 will be deployed on several flights to and from Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, and weekly flights to Singapore will begin to be operated by the A350 two days later. Cathay will continue flying the A359 on this routes until it is ready for deployment on long-haul routes. The exact flight schedule is shown below (taken from AHKGAP.net).

Iran Air orders 118 new Airbus aircraft

Iran Air was founded back in the 1940’s, and in the 70’s and 80’s it was a leading airline of the world, comparable to Emirates today. Sadly, as a result of the Iranian Revolution and unrest in the region, Iran Air was forced to cease many of its international routes and could no longer purchase new Airbus or Boeing aircraft for the past several decades due to tension between governments. However, on January 16 2016, sanctions against Iran civil aviation were lifted after Iran implemented the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) regarding its nuclear program. This was a major breakthrough for Iran Air, who were looking to replace their outdated fleet of Airbus A300’s and Boeing 747-200’s (with an average age of around 30 years) but could not due to sanctions. Just in the past week, Airbus accepted an order from Iran Air for a total of 118 aircraft following a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to France. The order consists of 21 A320’s with the current engine option (ceo), 24 A320’s with the new engine option (neo), 27 A330ceo’s, 18 A330neo’s, 16 A350-1000’s, and 12 A380-800’s. The total value of the deal is around 25 billion US dollars. Airbus has also agreed to assist with pilot and maintenance training for the new aircraft. Iran will also receive help upgrading its civil aviation infrastructure, including aerial navigation systems.

Boeing cuts production of 747-8

Due to a significant decrease in demand for the new and improved 747-8 (which let’s be honest was never that high in the first place) in the last few months, Boeing has decided to cut its production of the type to just 6 per year, as opposed to the original target of 12 in the same span of time. In 2015, Boeing was only able to sell two 747-8’s in what was the first sale of the aircraft type in two years. Demand for the 747 has sadly plummeted, especially in the passenger market as airlines now seem to prefer operating twin-engined wide-bodies such as the 777 or A350 on long-haul routes for increased fuel efficiency and flight frequency. The 747-8 is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s less fuel-efficient compared to the 777, but can’t carry as many passengers as the A380. Therefore, a large majority of 747-8 orders are for the freighter version, which are also on the decline due to the relatively small size of the freight market. In an age where a lot of the glamour in air travel is gone and it’s all about lowering the operating cost per seat, the 747 just doesn’t have an edge anymore. Part of the reason why production of the 747-8 hasn’t completely halted is because it was selected to replace the two aging 747-200’s that are currently serving as Air Force One. The future of the 747 is uncertain. Will sales recover? Will Boeing develop a new 747 variant or scrap the program altogether? As sad as it is, the truth is that once the last 747-400 has retired, the 747 will no longer be the Queen of the Skies.

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