A350 cockpit offers improved workspace for pilots

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Pilots transitioning to the A350 from other Airbus types will be greeted with a familiar cockpit layout, but one which boasts key improvements to their workspace.

Guy Magrin and Frank Chapman, experimental test pilots at the airframer, have been leading the design effort on the cockpit since the twinjet's inception in 2004.

Chapman says: "We have taken advantage of the technological advancements available without changing the basic concept too drastically.

"We have made some changes, but it is based on the A380's design."

Even pilots flying the A320 narrowbody should notice similarities in the way information is presented and in the location of switches, says Chapman.

The time required to transition to the new type will be as short as five days for A380 crews, eight days for those operating A330s and 11 days for A320 pilots, says Magrin.

Information for the crew is displayed on five screens laid out across the console, with a sixth positioned below this array. Pilots will be able to tailor the information displayed on each to suit the operational need. This also means if one display fails in flight then the layout can be quickly reconfigured, says Chapman.

In addition, the screens at either end of the row are angled to be visible to each pilot, says Magrin, reducing the tendency for the workspace to become "two separate offices".

And as a means of further segragating the flight crew from the rest of the aircraft, the entrance to their rest area will be accessible without the need to enter the passenger cabin.

Although no changes were made to the cockpit layout in the wake of the findings into the 2009 crash of an Air France A330 over the South Atlantic, Chapman says some systems have been updated in order to avoid "some of the issues AF447 had" in the way data was processed and presented. However, he declines to be drawn on the specific changes Airbus has implemented.

The pair are now beginning preparation for the first flight of the type, due to take place using aircraft MSN1 in mid-2013. This includes flying simulated scenarios "to see how the aircraft systems are integrated", says Magrin.

Given their lengthy involvement in the project they have become the "focal point for the cockpit design", says Magrin, with their role even extending to helping to decide on the shape of the cockpit windows and picking the colour for its furnishings and the tone of the lighting. These may sound like friperies, but as Magrin points out: "Although we need an efficient cockpit, it's also important that it is comfortable."