While Virgin Atlantic took flight with its first Airbus A350-1000s in September 2019, Finnair has been operating the -900 variant since October 2015. Gordon Smith caught up with Captain Marko Valtonen, the Finnish flag carrier’s chief pilot for the A330 and A350, who offered some insight into a training partnership between the two carriers.
Finnair is easily the most experienced A350 carrier in Europe, so when Virgin Atlantic contacted the flag carrier with a view to a partnership, it seemed like a conversation worth pursuing. Captain Marko Valtonen confirmed that the initial approach was made back in early February 2017 and that, despite the two companies opting for different variants, the enormous commonality between the -900 and -1000 helped the project to take off. Speaking from Finnair’s Helsinki headquarters, he noted: “From the pilot’s perspective they are pretty much the same. Of course I haven’t flown the -1000 myself, but the cockpit is similar, and the flying characteristics are almost identical so the difference in variants isn’t an issue.”