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Hello from ILA Berlin — the airshow that holds claim to the world’s oldest, dating back to 1909. This bi-annual event gives commercial aviation, military and space exhibitors a grand stage to show off their newest and latest products.
Airbus used the opportunity to unveil a brand new drone and discuss futuristic concepts like the CityAirbus. It also used the occasion to display two of its original works: the first-ever produced Airbus A340 and the second-ever produced A350.
Airbus’ A350-900XWB (MSN002, registration F-WWCF) is primarily at ILA Berlin to show off. Each day of the airshow, test pilots are pushing 002 to the max in impressive aerobatic displays. Between flights, Airbus is parking the “extra wide body” (XWB) so that it can be appreciated from the outside.
And, I was able to finagle a media tour:
Since I’m usually turning right when I enter an aircraft, I took this opportunity to turn left into the cockpit to appreciate its sleek appearance.
In business class, Airbus has installed staggered 1-2-1 lie-flat seating.
The front economy section is arranged in 12 rows of the standard 3-3-3 arrangement.
Pitch is pretty decent in economy too.
But, to get the best legroom, head to the rear economy cabin. Currently, Airbus doesn’t have seats installed in the forward part of the cabin, leaving unlimited legroom for nine seats.
Besides the missing seats, this aircraft isn’t special compared to what A350 flyers have already experienced. However, there’s one experimental part of the aircraft: where there’s a missing window in business class, Airbus is testing a new display screen.
Remember those awesome virtual windows in the middle of Emirates’ new first class suites? These screens would take that concept to a whole different level — which is what Airbus representatives were happy to focus on during the briefing. However, Airbus isn’t going to be holding the controls after it’s installed on an aircraft. So, airlines could use the display as a large virtual window, they could give passengers opportunities to choose what’s displayed, or this could become an opportunity for the airline to display advertisements.
Airbus representatives were split on how extensively these displays would be used in practice. Some paint the picture of only having these screens in places where the aircraft is missing windows, such as some seats and in the lavatories. However, another Airbus representative painted the idea of making an entire Airbus aircraft with no windows. The lack of windows would reduce drag and maintenance costs, while the screens would provide more versatility.
One of my questions for the Airbus reps might be one you’re wondering: How can I fly on this aircraft myself? Their answer was that you might not want to be in a position to have to do so, as it’s periodically used for relief flights.
For example, when Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean, the Airbus Foundation packed MSN002 with 30 tons of emergency goods and 84 medical personnel and flew it to Guadeloupe. It returned with nearly 200 evacuees.
In the last decade, the Airbus Foundation has facilitated more than 60 relief or goodwill flights while transporting over 800 tons of aid. Not all of these have been flown by this A350 though; the Airbus Foundation uses its test aircraft for some of these missions but also works with airline customers to supply aid on delivery flights — covering the costs for cargo handling, as well as the extra fuel cost to fly the cargo.
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