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The Airbus A350 is a projected airliner, a highly-revised version of the A330-200, intended to increase range and decrease operating costs. It is being developed as a competitor to the Boeing 787. The full industrial launch of the program is expected by the end of September. The cost to develop the A350 is estimated at around 3.5 billion.

Airbus A350-900

History

When Boeing announced their 7E7 Dreamliner project (now known as the 787), the claimed lower operating costs of this airplane would make it a serious threat to Airbus' A330. Airbus initially rejected this claim, stating that the 787 was just a reaction to the A330, and that no response was needed to the 787.

The airlines pushed Airbus to provide a competitor as competition benefits airlines with lowers prices. Initially Airbus proposed a simple derivative of the A330, with improved aerodynamics and engines fitted on the 787. The airlines were not satisfied and Airbus is forced to commit 4 billion Euros to a practically new design, while superficially looking similar to the A330, is actually 90% different. The only commonality with the A330 is the cockpit and flight characteristics to preserve the common pilot type rating. On September 16, 2004, Airbus president and CEO Nol Forgeard confirmed that a new project was under consideration, but did not name it, and would not state whether it would be an entirely new design or a modification of an existing product. Forgeard indicated that Airbus would finalise its concept by the end of 2004, begin consulting with airlines in early 2005, and aim to launch the new development programme at the end of that year.

On December 10, 2004 the boards of EADS and BAE Systems, the shareholders of Airbus, gave Airbus an "authorisation to offer", and formally named it the A350. In order not to upset the A330 market niche (as both has similar passenger capacity), the A350 is designed for longer ranges; from 7500 to 8800 nautical miles. This puts it squarely in competition with both Boeing 787 and the Boeing 777-200ER. The A350-900 gave Airbus for the first time, a twinjet that rival's the 777-200ER's capacity and range and has generated a lot of interest.

The first months of the A350 project were not without controversy, as it comes in the middle of a trade dispute between the U.S. and the EU about government support for Boeing and Airbus. An agreement dating back from 1992 and rules laid down by the World Trade Organisation govern what are allowable government subsidies to aircraft manufacturers. The U.S. contends loans given to Airbus under favourable conditions by European governments violate these rules, and has filed a complaint with the WTO. The EU has responded by filing its own complaint about subsidies received by Boeing for the development of the 787 and previous aircraft, and cross-subsidies from military projects.

On 11 January 2005, the United States and the European Union announced their agreement to settle the Airbus-Boeing subsidies conflict through bilateral talks. Both the U.S. and the EU have refrained from giving new aid to the respective companies.

With the Airbus' designs frozen and subsidies row under negotiation, global sales battles entered a new pitch, as airlines have decided that the mid-size wide body market (Boeing 767, early series Boeing 777, early series Airbus A340 and A330) is ready for replacement. Airbus announced more than 100 orders and options for the A350 in the 2005 Paris Air Show.

Orders

Airbus signed its first customer for the A350 in December 2004; Air Europa, a Spanish airline, will receive the first of 10 A350-800s in 2010. It is significant because Air Europa's fleet mostly consists of Boeing aircraft, such as the 737-800, 737-400, 767-300. Although Air Europa does have some Airbus aircraft such as the A340-200 and the A330s, which currently on order.

Airbus has received commitments for 125 A350s (not including options). The table excludes a 20 aircraft order from US Airways, which is subject to a successful merger with America West and a loan of $250 million to the new group from Airbus.

Date Airline EIS Type Engine
A350-800 A350-900 Unknown Options
December 21, 2004  Air Europa 2010 10     2 GEnx
June 14, 2005  Qatar Airways 2010     ≤60   GEnx
June 14, 2005  ALAFCO 2012 12     6 GEnx
June 15, 2005  GECAS ?     10   GEnx
June 15, 2005  Kingfisher Airlines 2012 5       GEnx
June 16, 2005  TAM 2012   8   7 GEnx
August 18, 2005  CIT Group 2012 5       GEnx
Total: ≤110 15

Technology

The A350 is not a completely new aircraft, but a highly-updated version of the A330-200. 90% of the aircraft will be changed over the current A330 according to the A350 program manager, Olivier Andries. The A350 features a new cabin, new wings, new engines, a new tail plane, new landing gear and many new systems. It builds on the technologies developed for A380, such as composite materials. 39% of the A350 will use composite materials while aluminium-lithium parts will comprise 23% of the aircraft; steel, 14%; aluminium, 11%; titanium, 9% and various other materials, the balance. The fuselage is planned to be built primarily with advanced aluminium-lithium alloys. The extensive use of composite and Al-Li will lead to 17,600 lb. of weight reduction.

Airbus plans to use bleed-air versions of the bleed less engine technology ( Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and General Electric GEnx engines) developed for the 787. Initial orders will use the GE GEnx as RR has yet to complete negotiations with Airbus. Four thrust ratings, from 63,000 to 75,000 lbf will be offered on the GEnx.

There is precedent for updating an older airliner to compete with a newer offering. Boeing updated their 737 product which resulted in the Next Generation 737 (737NG) in order to achieve similar operating costs to Airbus' A320 series.

Specifications

The cabin of the A350 will be 3 inches wider than the A330 and will offer more headroom. Also, the A350 will have 64 inches in head clearance around the window (compared to 61,5 inches for the 787)

There are two versions of the A350 proposed: the A350-800 and A350-900. They differ in the number of passengers they can accommodate, and their respective range capability. Boeing 787 data is included for comparison. The A350-800 is intended to compete with the 787-8, and the A350-900 is intended to compete with the 777-200ER.

  A350-800 [3] A350-900 [3] 787-3 [4] 787-8 [4] 787-9 [4] 777-200ER [5]
Length 58.8 m 65.2 m 55.5 m 55.5 m 62.0 m 63.7 m
Height 17.4 m 17.4 m 16.5 m 16.5 m 16.5 m 18.5 m
Wing span 61.1 m 61.1 m 51.6 m 58.8 m 60.0 m 60.9 m
Cross section 5.64 m 5.64 m 5.75 m 5.75 m 5.75 m 6.19 m
Passengers 253 (3 class) 300 (3cl) 296 (2cl) 223 (3cl) 259 (3cl) 301 (3cl)
MTOW (t) 245.0 245.0   218.7 226.8 297.6
Empty weight (t) 124.1 130.7   109.8 114.3 145.1
Max fuel (l) 139,100 139,100       171,160
Cruise speed (M) 0.82 (max 0.86) 0.82 (max 0.86) 0.85 0.85 0.85 0.84
Range 16,300 km (8,800 nm) 13,900 km (7,500 nm) 6,500 km 15,700 km 15,400 km 14,316 km
Cost $153.5M $170.5M   $120M [6]   $179.5M

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