a plane with a staircase

Airbus begins A350-1000 test aircraft refurbishment for French Bee

Airbus begins A350-1000 test aircraft refurbishment for French Bee

MSN 65, the second Airbus A350-1000 test aircraft, is alive and well!

The aircraft, currently registered as F-WLXV, is undergoing refurbishment and conversion from its flight test configuration to customer acceptance configuration. Once complete, the aircraft is destined to be handed over to French Bee.

a plane on the runway
French Bee A350-900

Part of the refurbishment process involves removing flight test equipment, removing and reapplication of paint, applying all the latest and necessary customer software, cleaning, new interior furnishings and a change of engines.

The Trent XWB-97 engines are set to be changed because they’ve been subject to flight test conditions. When an aircraft is being sold to a customer, new engines are desirable. Airbus will likely keep the original engines as floater engines or return them to Rolls-Royce.

Qatar Airways is a good example of this. Airbus will use their own engines for test flights and then install new ones for customer tests and delivery. While costly and time consuming, it ensures the airline retains its position in having a high quality offering.

The most interesting thing about this particular refurbishment is the capture of the aircraft without its iconic black mask around the cockpit windows.

The following photos from Frank Krause show the aircraft on the ground and in flight without the mask:


a large white airplane flying in the sky
Airbus A350-1000 No Mask
a large white airplane on a runway
Airbus A350-1000 No Mask

Part of the paint stripping process is to remove the black paint that is applied when the livery is painted.

The origin of the mask on the Airbus A350 comes from reducing glare in the flight deck and preventing damage to the airline’s livery. As the windows are mounted from the outside, any removal of screws and panels would mean chipped paint. Airbus figured a black masked area to allow for quick touch-ups was a good idea.

In the end, the mask has made the A350 easily distinguishable to passengers who aren’t knowledable of many aircraft types. It provides passengers with a key to remember the aircraft, just like the curved wings on the Boeing 787 or the folding wings of a 777x would.

As well as French Bee, Virgin Atlantic will also be receiving a refurbished aircraft. MSN 71, F-WWXL, is currently going through the rework process in Airbus’ Hamburg facility.

What are your thoughts of the A350 without its mask?