Interview with Cathay Pacific Airways

Mr Robert Taylor, Head of the A350 Project


Cathay Pacific Airways took delivery of its first Airbus A350 aircraft in May, introducing a brand new travel experience to the airline’s passengers. As Cathay Pacific’s MRO partner of choice, HAECO Hong Kong is proud to be Line Services provider to its new A350 fleet at Hong Kong International Airport. The HAECO Group e-newsletter editorial team invited Mr Robert Taylor, Head of Cathay Pacific’s A350 Project, to share with us the airline’s A350 Entry Into Service (EIS) journey.


Q: First of all, congratulations to Cathay Pacific on the delivery of the first Airbus A350 aircraft. We are very excited about this new aircraft model. Can you please share with us the selection process and the main reasons for adding the A350 model to Cathay Pacific’s fleet?


A: Cathay Pacific has a long-term fleet planning team that continually evaluates the necessary fleet composition to meet future business requirements. In 2010, a requirement was identified for a wide-body twin-engine aircraft to fly certain routes with certain payloads. Both Boeing and Airbus were contenders, and the A350 was eventually selected - although the competition was very close, with both manufacturers offering models with a desirable set of features and capabilities.


Q: The A350 is a truly remarkable aircraft model. We learned that it has been six years since Cathay Pacific first placed an order for the aircraft. What are the challenges that you and your team faced during this journey?


A: There were three key challenges that stood out during the EIS Project. The first challenge was to implement the new IT infrastructure necessary to manage the configuration of large volumes of system software. For example, the A330 has 12 software part numbers, while the A350 has over 500 part numbers, loaded into 1,800 separate computer locations.


The second challenge was e-Operations. The A350 is designed to be operated as a paperless aircraft, which required significant new IT infrastructure to be implemented. Cathay was the first customer to install its own e-TechLog solution (Ultramain), which made the e-Operations project work stream complex and challenging.


The third challenge was the installation of the cabin products – our supplier was required to meet fast-changing and stringent regulatory test requirements.  


Throughout the EIS Project, we were pleased to have HAECO as our partner, working hand-in-hand to overcome these challenges, and in particular devoting great efforts to ensure the smooth implementation of the e-TechLog solution. We have worked very closely together as two project teams and still do so, with weekly meetings in HAECO between our fleet technical team, the HAECO A350 operational team and the Airbus A350 on-site support team, to review the week’s operational performance, circulate information and get to root causes of issues, with a joint target of achieving 99% technical on-time performance (OTP) in the first year.


Q: What are the unique features that a passenger will experience on this new aircraft?


A: The A350 has new seat designs that provide enhanced features for additional comfort and in-flight entertainment. In-flight connectivity for live cable news feeds enables passengers to connect their own devices to browse the Internet, send and receive SMS and e-mails, as well as stay connected on social media. The A350 operates at a lower cabin altitude of 6,000 feet, which reduces passenger fatigue. The LED cabin mood lighting, with 17 million different colours, also helps to lessen the effects of jet lag.


Q: Cathay Pacific is a company that places a lot of focus on sustainable development and environmental protection. How does the introduction of the A350s align with this mission?


A: The A350 has been designed with a high level of consideration to making the aircraft more environmentally friendly. Firstly, advanced construction materials make extensive use of lightweight carbon fibre, which significantly reduces fuel consumption. The latest engine technology also increases fuel efficiency by up to 25%, resulting in up to 35% lower nitrogen oxide emissions and up to 25% lower carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, all A350 deliveries from Toulouse use a blend of 10% bio-fuel, paving the way for further use across the fleet in future. The A350’s advanced engine design lowers external noise to 16 decibels below international standard requirements. Furthermore, the paint used on the A350 is more environmentally friendly, with less chemicals used. A new thermal spray method is also used to apply the paint during the manufacturing process, meaning less paint is used.