Cathay Pacific will take delivery of its first Airbus A350 in February 2016, but selected staff and crew from the airline enjoyed a test flight on the next-gen jet during its visit to Hong Kong...
There was a buzz in the air around Gate 15 at Hong Kong International Airport on the morning of 30 July as passengers prepared for a very special flight.
Staff from key departments in CX were joined by representatives from other airlines and a number of journalists for the rare opportunity to get onboard a new aircraft type before its official entry into service.
The aircraft in question was MSN5, one of the fleet of five test aircraft being used in the route-proving programme for the A350 XWB – the final stage towards type certification and the planned entry into service of the new airliner later this year.
Airbus A350 XWB Marketing Director Mike Bausor had arrived with the Airbus team in Hong Kong as part of the A350 XWB Around the World tour, which would take in 14 major airports across the globe and one route via the North Pole.
“We call this route proving but essentially its functioning and reliability testing, putting the aircraft through as real airline operating conditions as possible to demonstrate to the authorities that it is ready to go into service,” Mike explained.
The three week trial started at the Airbus home in Toulouse, with Hong Kong and Singapore forming the second trip on the tour.
One aim of bringing the A350 to this part of the world was to test its systems in hot and humid conditions – and the weather lived up to expectations as MSN5 pushed back at HKIA.
The passengers settled into the cabin, which had been fitted out with 42 Business Class and 223 Economy seats in Airbus’ own configuration, along with galleys, crew rest areas and every other element found in an aircraft in service with a commercial airline.
The only thing that marked the test plane out as different was a bank of sophisticated monitors towards the rear of the Economy cabin.
There was just a low hum from the Rolls-Royce XWB engines as the A350 taxied and soon the aircraft was rising into the clear skies over Hong Kong.
The passengers enjoyed the views from the panoramic windows – one of the signature features of the A350 cabin – before unbuckling their seatbelts and getting a closer look at an aircraft that hopes to set new benchmarks for operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Refreshments for the passengers were provided by two CX crew, Flight Purser Lorraine Leung and Flight Attendant Stephanie Siu.
General Manager Mark Hoey stressed his excitement at getting a first-hand look at the new technologies employed.
“My first observations are that both cockpit crew and cabin crew will see some huge improvements to support our operations,” Mark said.
Though the cabin wasn’t fitted to CX’s own specifications, General Manager Product Toby Smith was still keen to get a closer look at areas relating to the galleys, overhead bins and lighting.
“This is a great opportunity to experience the A350 in an operating environment and I’m impressed by a number of things, including how quiet it is,” Toby said.
After four-and-a-half hours the aircraft descended into Singapore and the short but rewarding trip was over.
“It’s been a terrific day and we really appreciate the effort Airbus have put into looking after us and showing this remarkable new piece of technology,” Mark said.
Reprinted from the August 2014 edition of CX World magazine
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.