- Airbus unveil first A350 XWB with full passenger cabin
- Test flight with people on board will take place later this year
- Company states it is on track to deliver first plane to Qatar Airways by end of the year
The highly anticipated arrival of the Airbus A350 XWB took a small step closer, yesterday.
The European aircraft manufacturer unveiled the latest in its test fleet of the new jet, the MSN2, painted in a new "carbon" livery and the first to be equipped with a full passenger cabin interior.
Test flights of the aircraft began before the Paris Airshow last May. In the coming weeks Airbus will send the MSN2 into the skies on a series of Early Long Flights (ELF) with passengers onboard.
The company says it remains on track to deliver the new aircraft to its first customer, Qatar Airways, in the fourth quarter of this year.
"XWB" means "extra wide body." Three different iterations of the plane are being built: the A350-800, the A350-900 and the A350-1000, which seat 270, 314 and 350 passengers, respectively, in three-class seating.
Currently there are 814 orders from 39 airlines on the company's books.
The A350 XWB is the first in a family of super-efficient passenger planes Airbus designed to go head-to-head with rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 777s.
The project for the new jet began in 2006 and was initially criticized by some in the industry, including airlines, for not really advancing the global aviation scene.
Most of the orders for the plane are for the larger -900 and -1000 versions, leading some industry experts to suggest the company may discontinue to offer the -800 and clear the way for a re-engineered Airbus A330.
The distinctive carbon livery of the latest A350 XWB plane reflects how much of the aircraft is made from advanced materials; 53% of the A350 XWB is made up of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer and is Airbus' first carbon-fiber fuselage.