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The A350 XWB begins its Americas Demo Tour in Sao Paulo. Image courtesy of Airbus.

APEX Insight: Airbus’ newest aircraft, the A350 Extra Wide Body (XWB), is making its tour of the Americas, from Sao Paulo to Oshkosh, visiting friends and gathering new fans along the way.

The aircraft, which had its debut in Hamburg in April of last year, was designed to fit developing medium- to long-haul routes and future airline markets that want to balance aircraft performance and efficiency without compromising the cabin environment.

Mood lighting onboard the A350 XWB. Image courtesy of FC Media.

Mood lighting onboard the A350 XWB. Image courtesy of FC Media.

The A350 XWB introduced fully programmable LED mood lighting, wider panoramic windows, larger overhead stowage compartments, enhanced environmental controls, noise reduction and can be configured into two or three classes.

“We designed the Cabin Vision in 2006 and finally revealed it for the first time… in the flight-test aircraft MSN2. We realized this by [a] consumer-driven approach: Starting with market research capturing passenger and airline needs, then transforming this into inspiring concepts and developing it with our partners,” says Ingo Wuggetzer, vice-president, Cabin Strategy, Innovation & Design, Airbus in an interview with APEX Media.

The A350 XWB aircraft received its Type Certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in September of last year, and the FAA certification followed on November 12, 2015. As of June 2015, the A350 XWB has booked 781 firm orders from 40 customers around the world. During this year’s Paris Air Show in June, Airbus received 31 of those orders for A350-900s.

Airbus’ A350 XWB orders in the Americas are as follows:

  • TAM Linhas Aereas A350-900 (27)
  • Synergy Aerospace A350-900 (10)
  • Air Lease Corporation A350-900 (21), A350-1000 (5)
  • CIT Leasing A350-900 (14)
  • USAirways A350-900 (22)
  • United Airlines A350-1000 (35)
  • Delta Air Lines A350-900 (25)

The test aircraft currently touring the Americas is MSN2, an A350-900. Its special livery celebrates the lightweight carbon-fiber used in the A350s fuselage and wings. This aircraft cabin features 42 lie-flat business-class seats, 210 economy-class seats and the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems.

The first stop in the Americas for MSN2 was in Sao Paulo on Monday, July 6, to visit LATAM Airlines Group, which has ordered 27 A350-900 aircraft.

From there, MSN2 had stopovers at other major airports in Latin America in Campinas, Brazil and Bogota, Colombia. Synergy Aerospace, Avianca’s main shareholder and owner of Avianca Brasil, has ordered 10 A350 XWB.

The aircraft then headed north to kick off its US tour in Atlanta. Delta Air Lines employees toured the A350, in what was, for many, their first introduction to its layout and features. The first 25 A350s will join Delta’s fleet in 2017. The US tour included demo flights from Atlanta to Newark to Chicago and, ultimately, to Milwaukee for EAA’s AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Airbus effectively used social media to draw attention to its Americas tour, gathering fans in the US to share events as they unfolded on YouTube, Twitter and even on Periscope.

Since its first flight in June 2013, Airbus has conducted similar tours around the world visiting its customers and future passengers. During the certification phase of the aircraft, MSN5 flew to 14 major airports around the world  and a route to the North Pole over a three-week trip that included stops in Hong Kong and Singapore, Johannesburg, Sydney, Auckland, Santiago and Sao Paulo before returning to Toulouse.

Qatar Airways, the aircraft’s largest customer with orders on the books for 43 A350-900s and 37 A350-1000s, was the first customer to take delivery and introduce its A350 XWB to service in December of last year and January of this year. This June, Vietnam Airlines became the second airline to add the A350 XWB to its fleet. The airline will receive a total of 14 A350-900s, with the first four of these on lease through aircraft lessor AerCap, which itself has a total of 20 A350 XWBs on order.

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.