When the first version of the Airbus A350 entered service in 2015, it had been in development for eleven years. It was designed by the brightest minds and most sophisticated computer programs. This is all backed up by a rigorous testing and certification program. The results are a reliable, comfy, and unbelievably safe aircraft.
But for all that, we never stop learning regarding these extraordinary machines. As we fly them more, and as new technologies emerge or mature, new opportunities to improve the aircraft come to light. These enhancements can come from a variety of sources, like client feedback or as a result of the telemetric monitoring that watches each aircraft every second of the day. They’ll be anything from small little tweaks to larger changes. For instance, they have to be applied to every seat or overhead locker! They definitely keep our engineers on their toes. Even the Boeing 747, a design that harks back to the Sixties, is still being refined, modified and updated.
If you look closely at our first four Airbus A350 aircraft, you can see this evolution yourself.
A couple of subtle differences are visible between first two A350s – G-VLUX and G-VPOP – and our newest two, G-V-PRD and G-VJAM.
1. SSA (Side Slip Angle) Probes Evolution
This one’s a bit more technical. If you look closely around the nose of the aircraft, you can see an array of sensors. These form part of the Air data and inertial reference system. In other words, they feed flight parameters to the pilots, such as the angle the aircraft is flying, the outside temperature, and the barometric and static pressure.
As the A350 entered service, airbus still wanted to gather more info to compare the data between different systems that help pilots fly on approach in crosswinds. To do that, a number of early models had extra probes added to cross-check the data from the other instruments. You can see these 3 additional vanes on the front of the aircraft just below the ‘Zorro’s Mask’ windscreens. Having now gathered enough side slip info to establish that they’re not required, they’re being removed on all new A350s. They’ll also be taken off our first two aircraft in the coming months, which will save weight and maintenance costs.
2. Airbus Evolution: Landing Lights
Aircraft landing lights ensure pilots can see and be seen. On the nose wheel leg are 3 clusters of lights. Taxi lights are normally turned on once all the ground employees have moved far from the aircraft and it’s been given permission to start taxiing. These enable the pilots to see the taxiway markings in front of the aircraft.
Lower down on the undercarriage leg are the take-off lights. These are turned on once the aircraft is on the runway and has been given permission to take off. Their purpose is to help the pilot see the runway and to alert everyone on the ground that the aircraft is on its take-off roll. The lights turn off automatically as the wheels are retracted. The pilots can then reset the switches as part of their departure checklist. (The huge lights embedded in the leading edge of the wings will stay on while the aircraft is below 10,000 feet to help visibility.)
Also part of the take-off light cluster is the runway turn-off lights. These point out at an angle away from the nose to help see when turning.
On the left, you can see G-VLUX, otherwise called Red Velvet, our first A350. Along with G-VPOP (our second aircraft), she was fitted with traditional lightbulbs of the type installed in aircraft for decades. On the right is G-VJAM, that along with G-VPRD has the new 3 flat panel led lights fitted. this is the airbus evolution A350 in action. led technology has improved since the initial specification of the aircraft – the new LED lights are cooler, lighter, and more reliable (though they produce the same amount of light) – and re-certification was needed to fit them. All that takes time. now they’ve been certified, the new led lights will be fitted as standard.
3. Touch Capable Screens
While these modifications are the ones you can see, many other improvements are happening out of sight. when our next group of A350s arrives next year they’ll have the most recent airbus evolution on the flight deck. Of the A350 XWB cockpit’s six massive screens, three will be touch-capable: the two outer displays plus the lower-center display.
This new touch capability is available when pilots are using their Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications, which help flight crews seamlessly perform flight management tasks. The touchscreens represent a new method of input, which complements the existing physical keyboard integrated into the retractable table in front of each pilot. Additionally the keyboard and trackball “keyboard-cursor control unit” (KCCU) placed on the center console. It’ll bring enhanced operational efficiencies, greater crew interaction, cockpit symmetry, and smoother info management. All of which makes this amazing aircraft even better. we can’t wait to hear what airbus have got planned next.