It was always as much a dream as a realistic expectation, but anyone hoping for a first look at the A350 at this year's Paris air show can officially forget it. During the 17-23 June jamboree at Le Bourget, Airbus's all-new big twin will still be locked down in Toulouse undergoing final preparations for a maiden flight around the end of the month.
Speaking to Flight International on the sidelines of an industry lunch in Washington DC, Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said the aircraft's first sortie will be "around mid-year, just after Paris or a week later. It's difficult to say".
That timetable matches long-running promises of a flight in mid-2013. Bregier said: "There are many, many tests to pass. So far the progress is good. We are on track."
Bregier also underscored his confidence in the February decision to ditch the lithium-ion batteries in the type in favour of nickel-cadmium, as a response to two li-ion battery incidents in January that led the US Federal Aviation Administration to ground Boeing 787s. "I'm sure we are 100% on the safe side," said Bregier.
He reiterated Airbus's assessment that the li-ion battery design of the A350 is "secure" and that this high-capacity, lightweight battery type could be used on the type in a few years, but added: "It's never good to have a fire on an aircraft and say you can contain it."
Meanwhile, Japanese investigators have conducted their first tests on the All Nippon Airways 787 that was forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport on 16 January after pilots observed an error message related to battery malfunction. The aircraft has been grounded at the airport since the incident. The tests collected data on voltage and current flows.
That incident led the FAA to ground the type, coming just days after a Japan Airlines 787 suffered "severe fire damage" on the ground at Boston Logan airport when a li-ion battery for the auxiliary power unit exploded, burning for 40min before firefighters could extinguish the blaze.
Boeing's proposed solution involves battery and charger improvements and a fire containment system. A number of test flights have been completed as part of a campaign to certificate the modifications.