Airbus intends to ramp up flight tests this week to demonstrate that the A350 eventually should be allowed to fly routes taking it as many as 7 hours from an emergency landing strip. Trans-Atlantic flights to Goose Bay in Canada, Azores and Cape Verde are planned as these are common diversion airports.
The A350 would have unprecedented regulatory leeway compared with other twin-engine jets on ultra-long polar or over-water routes.
If European regulators grant approval in coming years, the wide-body jets would be able to take more direct routes to slash flight times, save fuel and give Airbus a potential marketing advantage connecting a limited number of destinations. Later, the FAA will be asked to give its stamp of approval. When the A350 goes into service in coming months, Airbus expects to have approval for diversions of more than 3 hours. (Between ETOPS 180 and ETOPS 330)
Industry officials said Airbus would win bragging rights for the A350 to fly virtually any nonstop route in the world without having to make adjustments to stay closer to potential diversion airports; Australia-Brazil and SouthAfrica-Australia are some of new nonstop routes that would be open for twin-engine jets.
More broadly, the issue also highlights the reliability of the latest generation of Rolls-Royce engines, along with electrical, fuel and fire-suppression systems.
“This is the first time we are targeting such an aggressive ETOPS certification,” said Fernando Alonso, SVP for flight testing at Airbus. To combat fire, one batch of extinguishers is designed to put out the flames. A second group would release chemicals in a controlled way to assure the fire doesn’t rekindle.
Rival Boeing currently has approval to fly certain aircraft as far as 5,5 hours from the nearest suitable airport in case of an emergency. When plans for the A350 were unveiled, Boeing said it didn’t intend to match Airbus’s goal.
On its A330-300 wide-body, Airbus already has approval to fly as far as 4 hours from the nearest airport under so called Extended-range Twin Operations, or ETOPS, rules.
Based on the article “Airbus tests A350’s ability to fly farther from emergency landing sites” published in The Wall Street Journal.