The new jetliner made by the European consortium Airbus A350-900 aircraft will conduct a demonstration flight on Wednesday in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Airlines ordered 14 Airbus A350-900 aircraft – also know as extra wide body (XWB) – to be delivered between 2016-2019.
Officials of Ethiopian Airlines told The Reporter that the state-of-the-art jetliner will take off from the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and conduct a one hour demonstration flight having on board executives of the airline, board members of the airline, officials of the Ministry of Transport, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise. The aircraft will be flown by test pilots of Airbus. An Airbus marketing and technical team lead by Francois Cognard, vice president of sales for Middle East and North Africa, is also expected to make a briefing.
A350-900 is Airbus’ new product that made its maiden flight in June 2013. Powered by the Rolls Royce Trent Engines, the Airbus A350-900 is known for its spacious cabin. The new jetliner will be a rival of the Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft. The A350 family has 800, 900 and 1000 versions with 250-350 seats. Ethiopian’s A350-900 will have 346 seats.
The A350XWB aircraft was certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Qatar Airways is the launch customer of the new jetliner. Ethiopian Airlines is the first carrier from Sub Saharan Africa to acquire the A350 aircraft.
The management of Ethiopian Airlines placed firm orders for the purchase of 12 Airbus A350-900 aircraft in 2009. The order was confirmed at the 2009 Dubai Air show. The total listed price of the 12 A350s is 2.9 billion dollars.
Ethiopian has leased two more A350s that will arrive in Addis Ababa in May and June next year. Ethiopian, which is a reliable customer of Boeing for over six decades, ordered Airbus aircraft for the first time. The national flag carrier operates an all-Boeing long-haul fleet. The airline operates 73 aircraft including 13 Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline recently bought additional six Dreamliners.
Kiran Rao, executive vice president for strategy and marketing at Airbus, told The Reporter that Airbus is training Ethiopian cockpit crew, aircraft maintenance technicians, and engineers. Rao said Airbus aircraft are ideal for Ethiopian Airlines.
“Airbus aircraft is extremely well suited to the Ethiopian environment. The reason for that is Addis Ababa has a high elevation. When you are at high altitude you have to have airplanes with very good take-off performance. The A320, A330, and A350 deliver absolute best take-off performance at high altitude and when you do that they give the airline the ability to fly further distances. All Airbus aircraft have better take-off performance idly suited to the Ethiopian environment,” Rao told The Reporter.
“I can confirm that Airbus is on schedule to begin delivering A350s to Ethiopian Airlines from 2016. The aircraft will be delivered with a complete training and support package, including engineering and pilot training,” Linden Birns, spokesman of Airbus in Sub-Sahara Africa, told The Reporter.
In addition, Airbus will deploy technical representatives to Addis Ababa to provide customer field support to the airline, according to Linden.
Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian CEO, told The Reporter that he hopes that the A350 will deliver all what was promised by Airbus when Ethiopian placed the order. “The fleet will play an important role in our fast, profitable and sustainable growth strategy. The airplane's seat capacity will be slightly bigger than our B-777-200LR fleet but it will have shorter range. We expect quantifiable unit operating cost reduction. It will have an amazing cabin interior features for our customers. Hence, we are looking forward to take delivery and operate it in our system in 2016,” Tewolde said.