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I was watching a video of the first A350 flight. At 0:35 one of the pilots appears to be wearing a helmet and what looks like a parachute. Is that true? Do pilots on maiden flights wear such a kit, so that in case of an emergency they can evacuate the airplane?

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The A350 test pilots were wearing helmets, parachutes and also lifejackets. This blog post has details and pictures of the emergency evacuation system on the A350 test flight. – Colin Pickard Jul 17 '14 at 10:49
@ColinPickard Note that that says "on some test flights". They don't on all. I remember seeing an A380 test (I forget what it's called), flying at V_md, where they mentioned that was the only test flight they flew with all evac gear on (otherwise it is merely onboard the aircraft in case it is needed). – gsnedders Jul 23 '14 at 15:27
up vote 26 down vote accepted

To the best of my knowledge, all commercial aircraft being tested have their pilots take on parachutes and hi-vis clothing in addition to creating a possible means of egress on all important flights, such as the first flight and high-speed tests.

Since getting the cabin doors open is practically difficult, the solution I think most producers use is to built a chute down the front cargo entrance which can open.

Bombardier produced a pretty extensive film for their new CSeries.

Here's the solution employed on the Concorde:
Concorde escape hatch

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CONCORDE! :D Parachutes sound a bit absurd on it though because you'd probably get screwed at FL 600 and at Mach 2 if something happened up there. – shortstheory Jul 22 '14 at 8:02
And, where do you fall out when you open the hatch? Wouldn't your escape be obstructed by the cargo hold? – shortstheory Jul 22 '14 at 8:03
@shortstheory it's been years since I've seen any of the prototype Concordes; my memory is under that door is a chute all the way down to the bottom of the fuselage. – gsnedders Jul 23 '14 at 15:21
Hey guys, don't worry its only an "intermediate" cover, the real cover is probably somewhere else. – Burhan Khalid Oct 26 '14 at 6:27

Since getting the cabin doors open is practically difficult

No, that's not the (main) reason.

There's something called a wing ... which has engines mounted to it !

Not a very good idea to jump out of a door if you're likely to be sucked into an engine on your way out !

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jump out using the rear exit then? – shortstheory Jul 22 '14 at 8:04
What about rear mounted engines (DC-9, most if not all private jets, etc.) Also you would be blasted by jet exhaust. – ptgflyer Dec 25 '14 at 16:50
@shortstheory A forward chute could be easier to reach than a tail door, from the cockpit of a doomed pilotless plane. – Dronz Jul 7 '15 at 22:25
This doesn't answer the question – TomMcW Jul 9 at 22:23

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