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First Airbus A350 XWB Painting Completed On MSN001
By Jim Douglas

May 13, 2013 - Painting of the first A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) “MSN001” was today fully completed as it emerged in its Airbus livery out from the paint shop in Toulouse. This latest milestone shows that MSN001 is progressing well on its route to first flight.  

The aircraft painting was achieved in less than seven days and follows the recent completion of MSN001’s flight-test-instrumentation (FTI) verification. Last month the aircraft underwent its engines installation, and passed a subsequent intensive phase of ground vibration tests. MSN001 will soon start the final tests before its maiden flight this summer. 

The Airbus A350 XWB is a family of long-range, widebody jet airliners under development by Airbus. The A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fiber reinforced polymer. It will carry 250 to 350 passengers in three-class seating, depending on variant.


The A350 XWB Family includes the A350-900 and A350-800 seating 314 and 270 passengers respectively, offering airlines the ability to match the aircraft to their network needs and thereby guaranteeing optimum revenue potential. Compared to its nearest established competitor, the A350 XWB Family reduces fuel burn by 25 per cent. 

The A350 was originally conceived in 2004 as a widely new design, but with a fuselage based on the A330. This was rejected by some prospective customers. The 2006 redesigned A350 was named by Airbus as the A350 XWB. Airbus stated that it will be more fuel efficient and have operating costs up to 8% lower than the Boeing 787.  

The launch customer for the A350 is Qatar Airways, which ordered 80 aircraft across the three variants. Development costs are projected to be US$15 billion. The airliner is scheduled to enter airline service in mid-2014. As of February 2013, 617 aircraft have been ordered.



Back in late April Airbus performed lightning strike testing on the A350 XWB, completing a key required step in preparations for this next-generation Airbus jetliner’s maiden flight. These so-called “electromagnetic hazard” evaluations which took place mid-month at Airbus’ Clément Ader facility in Colomiers, France involved the second A350 XWB flight test aircraft, MSN3, to demonstrate necessary protection levels in case of lightning strikes while aloft. 

The A350 XWB’s aerostructure is made primarily of composite materials (carbon fiber reinforced plastic), providing more electrical resistance than an aerostructure consisting mostly of metallics. To ensure the A350 XWB aerostructure safely manages lightning strikes, Airbus developed a solution where metallic foils are embedded in the aircraft’s composite panels increasing the aerostructure’s electrical conductivity and protecting harnesses with metallic conduits. Metallic foils already have been used on the A380 rear fuselage section, however as the A350 XWB includes a higher percentage of composite materials, it is important to confirm that such foils provide adequate protection for systems and equipment.  

The A350 XWB “electromagnetic hazard” testing on MSN3 lasted around three days, consisting of lightning strike simulations and follow-up measurements of induced voltage/current levels on selected harnesses. These evaluations use a low-level current injection rather than the actual electrical current level generated by a lightning strike, with the measured voltages and current then extrapolated to the real threat of 200,000 amperes. This testing will be continued by similar but longer tests on the MSN4 aircraft in 2014, fulfilling a requirement for type certification of Airbus’ A350-900 version.
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