Despite Aborted Takeoff, Airbus A350 Completes First US Commercial Flight
Photos by Paul Thompson
New York’s John F. Kennedy airport welcomed its first Airbus A350 on Wednesday. The Qatar Airways flight left Doha, Qatar at 7:40 a.m., local time, and landed at JFK at 2 p.m. local time. With this flight, Qatar became the first airline to fly the A350 to the United States.
Qatar was the launch customer for the A350, and received the first production aircraft in January. The airline has seven A350s in its fleet, also flying to Munich, Frankfurt and Singapore. Officially, Qatar will launch regular A350 service to the U.S. in January, via Philadelphia.
During the return leg from JFK to Doha Thursday night, the chartered flight of 36 media guests had a minor mishap. According to accounts of those on board, the plane came to an abrupt halt while attempting to take off. The aborted takeoff occurred as the plane reached about 100 miles per hour. Some passengers were even watching a live video feed from the plane’s tail cam as it happened.
Apparently, a glitch in the plane’s computers thought the runway was too short for takeoff, and applied the brakes on its own. It remains to be seen if this is a result of a data error that was entered by the pilots prior to departure. The plane was not damaged and there were no injuries.
The worst that happened was that the pillows and blankets on each seat ended up on the floor as a result of the abrupt stop. The plane departed again two hours later, after a brief inspection and a cool-off period for the brakes. The landing in Doha about 12 hours later was without incident.
In comparison to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the A350’s width makes it more comfortable for passengers when both planes are configured in a 3-3-3 economy arrangement. The A350 cabin allows it to have 18-inch wide seats, where the 787 has to have narrower seats. But like the Dreamliner, the A350 makes use of carbon fiber technology for a lighter yet stronger fuselage.
I have yet to fly an A350, but my fingers are crossed that it will happen soon. I have taken two 787 flights, though not in economy. One was on a British Airways 787-9, in First Class, and the other was on a Qatar Airways 787-8, in Business Class. Their cabin service is top notch, no matter where you’re sitting. I only sat in economy briefly on my Qatar 787 flight, so that I would have a window seat for landing into Doha. It didn’t feel that tight, but there was nobody else in my row.
Finnair is currently the only other airline flying the A350. The company took delivery of its first of nineteen A350s from Airbus in early October. Singapore Airlines will receive the first of 63 A350s early in 2016. By 2018, Singapore will have a special A350-ULR (Ultra Long Range) that will enable them to once again fly the world’s longest flight from Changi to JFK. Singapore has flown that route before, but retired the A340-500 aircraft that it was using in 2013.
Qatar was also slated to receive its first Airbus A320neo this month — the very first airline to do so — however, Air Transport World reports that Lufthansa will now be the first operator. Qatar has decided to put their deliveries on hold until a minor issue can be revolved with the Pratt & Whitney PW1900G engines. Currently, the engine requires three minutes of idle run-up time before the plane can taxi to the runway, burning valuable fuel and time.
The isn’t the first time Qatar has opted to delay delivery of brand new planes. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker is known for being a perfectionist, and delayed the delivery of both the first A350 and first A380 in 2014, because things weren't absolutely perfect.
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