A350 pilot training: Flying with Finnair

By: Dave Gunner

January 11, 2019

A big week for our Airbus A350 programme

Ahead of the delivery of our first A350 aircraft, two of our pilots have spent some time at the Finnair Flight Academy in Helsinki. Finnair were the first airline in Europe to operate the A350 and they have a wealth of experience in operating the aircraft.

The training is provided by Finnair Flight Academy, with experienced Finnair pilot instructors as the trainers.

“With over three years of commercial A350 operations, we have extensive experience on this aircraft, and we are happy to share our learnings with colleagues at Virgin Atlantic”, said Finnair A350 fleet chief Marko Valtonen.

First time at the controls

This was the first time our pilots Rob Lawton and Chris Rosher got to fly the A350 for themselves. It was also a great opportunity to learn how Finnair operate their aircraft in some really harsh winter conditions. The first training flight on Thursday was scheduled to depart to Rovaniemi but due to freezing fog at the airport the plan was changed to fly to Oulu Airport near the Arctic Circle.

“It’s been a fantastic start to the A350 training with Finnair,” said Rob, who is our senior manager for fleet operations as well as a captain.

“Finnair have been operating A350 aircraft for the last 3 years, and have shared their operational experiences with us over the last week.

“The weather conditions in Finland have been challenging with temperatures close to -15 degrees, contaminated runways and de-icing. This has given us valuable insight into operating this wonderful aircraft in extreme conditions.”

That looks chilly outside. Preparing for take from Helsinki.

Sharing knowledge

We’ll be the first European carrier to operate the A350-1000 variant. Finnair was the first European airline to operate the A350-900 in 2015. They have extensive experience on A350 operations and are now sharing this knowledge with us through pilot training that comprises the training flights, simulator training, observation flights and the sharing of best practices.

“Today marks a very exciting milestone in our journey towards welcoming the A350 to our fleet this year,” said our head of the A350 programme, Gareth Salt.


Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.

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