Airbus’ new fuel-efficient plane sets off on maiden flight

Airbus' new "eco-efficient" plane, which uses 25% less fuel than previous models and provides an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions, has taken off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport today.

Setting off on its maiden flight, the fuel reduction achieved by one A350 XWB jetliner equates to 10.5 million litres of fuel savings per year, or the fuel consumption of around 7,500 mid-size cars.

According to Airbus, the fuel savings are a result of the A350 XWB’s intelligent use of materials, including composites, its state-of-the-art aerodynamics, advanced systems – such as modular avionics, electro-hydraulic actuators and variable frequency generators for electricity.

The planes new-generation Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines will also largely contribute to the efficiency of the plane.

Saving on fuel efficiency has been an essential cost saving for the aviation industry as fuel costs continue to rise and passenger numbers decline largely due to the troubled economy.

Accepting this, Airbus aims to reduce energy consumption by a third by 2020, and is incorporating alternative energy sources across the A350 XWB programme.

In Toulouse, the company has installed a high-tech biomass boiler, which will save about 12,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, in line with Airbus’s Blue5 plan target to reduce total emissions by 50% by 2020.

The boiler will use about 22,000 tonnes of wood each year, sourced from sustainable forests in France.

Another initiative to reduce consumption has been the use of solar at the nearby A350 XWB Final Assembly Line, where photovoltaic panels cover half of the flat part of the roof.

Airbus says the power generated by the panels equals the amount of electricity needed to illuminate 83,000 square metres of offices. Through its use of solar, the assembly line facility is able to generate the equivalent of more than 50% of its own energy requirements.

In addition to the panels in Toulouse, the Broughton North factory in the UK, which assembles carbon fibre wings for the A350 XWB, features three photovoltaic arrays that provide about 6.58kW of power each, with the total output over a year at about 22,000kW hours.

The factory building is heated with a pump that extracts heat energy from the outside air and, through a refrigeration process, produces hot water for the under-floor heating system in the Goods Receipt area.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie