European aircraft maker Airbus has begun the final stage of trials for certifying its A350-900 for passenger service.
The A350-900 is the latest in a line of widebody jets manufactured by Airbus.
The company said Thursday it was beginning route proving trials, including some flights with passengers aboard. Tests will include high-altitude airfield performance, automatic landings and airport turnaround and handling service to show the plane is ready for passenger operations.
The three-week effort includes four trips that will take the jetliner to 14 major airports on worldwide routes, the company said, with one of those trips traveling over the North Pole. Flights will be operated by Airbus flight crews with pilots from the European Aviation Safety Agency participating.
The A350-900, which is made largely with lightweight carbon fiber and boasts 25% fuel efficiency over previous generation aircraft, is part of France-based Airbus’s A350 XWB family. The three models -- A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000 -- can seat as many as 350 passengers in a three-class configuration and are priced from $260 million to $340 million.
In the long-haul market, the A350 XWB line is a direct competitor to rival Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner, which has been plagued by setbacks.
The A350 XWB family of airliners has encountered delays too, but the company said aircraft are on track for certification in the second half of the year. Airbus expects to make its first delivery to Qatar Airlines by the end of the year.
The A350 XWB had already won 742 orders from 38 customers worldwide as of June 2014, Airbus said. The tally does not include agreements reached at this month's Farnborough International Airshow, one of the industry's largest trade shows where plane makers, airlines and government officials gather to ink lucrative deals.
Last week, Airbus announced total orders and commitments at Farnborough for 496 aircraft valued at $75 billion, which it said was a company record at the show. Boeing reported receiving orders for 201 planes worth $40.2 billion at the show.
Five development aircraft are participating in the A350 flight-test program and have logged over 540 flights and 2,250 flight hours to date, Airbus said.