Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

Tag: airbus

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

 

Dragonair Business Class A330 Review HKG-PEK

Dragonair is a lesser known carrier that is the regional sister airline of Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific. Using an all-Airbus fleet of A330-300’s, A321’s, and A320’s, it flies from Hong Kong to various destinations in Asia. This week I was able to sample the Dragonair business class offering on a flight to beijing, so I decided it would be nice to share my experience.

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

Qatar Airways A380 Can’t Get Gate at ATL

In an embarrassing turn of events during Qatar Airways’ inaugural service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), their Airbus A380 Super Jumbo operating the flight could not get a gate at the airport’s main terminal, and had to park at a remote stand, forcing passengers to deplane via airstairs (those mobile stairs mounted on top of a truck) before being shuttled to the terminals in buses.

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.

What’s that barking noise you hear on the A320?

If you’re an aviation enthusiast like the rest of us or you regularly pay attention to what’s happening during your flight, you may have noticed that the Airbus A320 produces a very audible “barking noise” while on the ground. Most of the time it’s heard prior to or during taxi departing from the airport. Those of you who have noticed it can probably agree with me in that it’s a very distinct noise, most similar to a dog barking but much more mechanical, like a motor failing to start. The noise comes from something called the power transfer unit, or PTU for short. What the PTU does is that it transfers power (hence the name) between the different hydraulic systems so that each individual system has an appropriate amount of pressure. What people normally find strange is that this PTU noise only heard on A320 aircraft, never on the Boeing 737 or Airbus A340. This is because the A320 has a unique hydraulic system that isn’t found elsewhere. The exact technical details of the A320’s hydraulics system is definitely beyond my knowledge and probably beyond your interest, but the A320 has three different hydraulics systems whereas the Boeing 737 only has two, and therefore the A320 needs to transfer pressure between its three systems more frequently than other aircraft and therefore it requires a more powerful PTU. And typically with heavy machinery the more powerful it is the noisier it will be, which is why the PTU on the A320 is audible from inside the cabin. The PTU activates mainly after Engine 2 (starboard) has been started, and since the A320 somtimes taxi’s on one engine to save fuel, the PTU can also be heard during taxi prior to approaching the runway when pilots would start the remaining engine in preparation for takeoff. Next time you’re flying on an A320, be sure to look out for the sound of PTU if you haven’t already, it’s definitely hard to miss and very cool once you know what you’re listening to.

My thoughts on the Airbus A340 family

To be blatantly honest I’m quite fond of the A340 as it’s the only four-engined single decker aircraft that is in widespread use, unlike the Ilyushin Il-96, which is currently operated for passenger service only by Cubana. Despite being an Airbus aircraft, the A340 has a surprising amount of character. I’ll probably receive criticism for this but to me it just seems as though Airbus planes are more down-to-business and have less finesse and stylishness than Boeing aircraft. The A340, like the A330, does feel somewhat lacking in elegance, but it makes up with its unique as a four-engined single deck aircraft. The A340 comes in four different variants: -200, -300, -500, and -600. As any plane spotter worth his salt should know, each variant is aesthetically very different from the others, especially when it comes down to proportions.

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.

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