A350 to fly over Auckland Harbour on first NZ flight

Cathay deputy chief pilot Evan Summerfield (Annabelle Tukia)
Cathay deputy chief pilot Evan Summerfield (Annabelle Tukia)

Auckland Airport will welcome the first commercial flight into the southern hemisphere by an Airbus A350 aircraft on Friday afternoon.

The aircraft, operated by Cathay Pacific, left Hong Kong last night. It's replacing the A340, which has serviced the route for the last 18 years.

Cathay deputy chief pilot Evan Summerfield says hours of practise have been put in to up-skill staff in preparation to fly the A350, which he likens to a Formula 1 race car.

"We do five four-hour sessions in the flight simulator to get them accustomed to the things that are not in the current aeroplane, like the head-up display."

The A340, in comparison, is like "a Ford Escort".

"It's pretty basic. It's got a great flight management system, but it's pretty basic."

The aircraft's chief engineer Richard Xing says one key feature of the plane is the extra-strong carbon fibre fuselage which means more air can be pumped into the cabin.

"It helps reduce the feeling of fatigue for long-haul passengers, and helps them to adapt to jet-lag a lot better."

The new aircraft is also much easier to keep up-to-date - rather than replacing mechanical systems, engineers can perform software upgrades "like an iPhone".

"You can just download a new app, new software, and click 'yes' and upload it wirelessly. It saves a lot of time and is a lot easier."

The aircraft will make a special flyover of Auckland Harbour before landing at the airport at 1pm.


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