Airbus is slowly but certainly bringing the next generation aircraft to the skies. The A350 XWB flying prototype (MSN1) recently received its glass cockpit i.e. next-gen controls. The systems were fired on for the first time couple of days ago, with more information about the history slowly coming out.
Slowly but certainly, Airbus is working on completing the first flying prototype of its next generation aircraft, the Airbus A350 XWB (eXtra Wide Body). Right now, there are two aircrafts being assembled, one of which will never take on the sky, as it will be destroyed (static airframe, MSN5000). The second aircraft dubbed MSN1 should take flight at the beginning of 2013. Just like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, the development of A350 XWB isn’t going without a hitch. The company pushed back the entry into the service by six months so far, mostly due to mechanical issues.
We received a picture from Airbus SAS with the completed the work on the flight instrumentation deck and powered the system for the very first time. As you can see on the picture below, the progress on the cockpit is doing just fine. The plane maker decided to drop the multiple 10 inch flight deck of the Airbus A380 with a contemporary high-resolution 15" displays and change the system from 2004 to 2011-class hardware.
The displays are replaceable alongside with the computer system, reducing the cost should a system break down. Intersystem redundancies should prevent the sunshade cockpit, e.g. when glass cockpit stops operating due to a computer failure or a power outage (we've heard of few cases when the primary displays went offline and the crew was reduced to manual IFR – Instrument Flight Rules). Since its introduction in 1980s, there was around 50 or so reports that EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System) failed during flight, which is a miniscule amount when you compare to the over 20,000 planes with glass cockpit taking off and landing hundreds of thousands of times in a single day, transporting millions of people.
For those interested, these systems actually use components from PCs (yo won't find many aircraft-grade certified smartphone/tablet-class processors…for now), such as AMD or Intel processors, as well as graphics processors from NVIDIA and AMD. We have requested information from the systems manufacturer to receive more information about certified parts, given that previous generation used NVIDIA Quadro NVS (GeForce FX 5200-class, NV3X parts). Even though the NV3x class hardware (launched in 2002) was criticized in the PC world for high operating temperature and not substantial performance, industry-grade parts served perfectly as the replacement for 3dfx VSA-100 chips which were the first PC-originating graphics processors to end up in the airline industry.
Sometimes, delays are a good thing.