The Airbus A350 XWB test plane in a Delta hangar. The model will fly long-range routes when it joins Delta's fleet in 2017.
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

Delta gets a look at its future

A version of Delta Air Lines’ new “extra wide-body” jet arrived at the Atlanta airport this week, though the airline won’t start using the model for more than a year.

An Airbus A350 test plane is making a two-day stopover at Hartsfield-Jackson International, giving Delta flight crews, agents and mechanics a chance to see the jet that will join the carrier’s fleet in 2017.

Atlanta-based Delta plans to use the A350 for long flights such as trans-Pacific routes, replacing 747s as well as older Boeing 767s.

“It’s our newest and greatest aircraft,” said Mike Bausor, marketing director of customer affairs for Airbus’s A350 XWB, for extra-wide body. “People come aboard and their first reaction is, wow, look how spacious this aircraft looks.” The plane can carry roughly 310 to 325 passengers depending on the seat layout chosen by airlines.

Echoing the Boeing 787’s innovations in fuel efficiency and the use of composites, Airbus says 53 percent of its A350 fuselage is made of carbon-fiber composites and it is significantly more fuel-efficient than aircraft it replaces.

Atlanta is the test plane’s first stop on a U.S. tour that will include the enormous Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin.

The test plane has a standard 3-3-3 layout with test equipment and mood lighting, while Delta’s planes will have the carrier’s own seat layout and interior design.

On Tuesday the plane was in a Delta paint hangar at its technical operations center next to Hartsfield-Jackson, to be examined by employees who help bring new planes into service, along with other Delta workers.

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