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Airbus A350 Gathers Momentum Following New Orders

  • Friday, 17th June 2005
  • Reading time: about 8 minutes

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Airbus has received a vote of confidence for the production of the composite A350 by securing enough orders at the Paris Air Show to launch the advanced jet in 2010.

Quashing concerns over whether Airbus could present a successful competitor to Boeing’s 787, which will be launched in 2008, Airbus announced firm orders at the Paris Air Show from Qatar Airways (60), GE Commercial Aviation Services (10), Kingfisher Airlines (5) and ALAFCO (12) bringing the total orders for the A350 to 125, at the time of going to press. The orders are consistent with Airbus’ CEO Noel Forgeard’s hope that orders will climb to “”120 planes by the end of the week””, and contributing to a successful week for Airbus, netting some $33.5 Billion worth of orders during the course of the Paris Air Show.

The new Airbus A350 builds on the technologies created for the double-deck A380, by including a lighter airframe through the use of carbon fibre wings and an aluminium-lithium fuselage, fuel-saving aerodynamic improvements that flow from computer-modelling, and lower maintenance costs. The A350 is also said to contain more composite materials than previously predicted, although Airbus sources will not yet confirm material selection for the jet.

At a briefing at the Air Show, Forgeard predicted strong growth in overall Airbus deliveries – upgrading his 2005 forecast Tuesday to “”at least 360″” planes from the earlier 350-360 target and promising to “”pass the 400 point next year.”” Forgeard said on Monday that he already had “”more than enough”” A350 orders to launch the plane. But EADS, Airbus’ parent company, planned to delay the launch go-ahead until as late as September, instead of announcing a launch at the Air Show which many had expected.

Speaking about the new A350, Noël Forgeard stated that “The A350 is a really new plane, with 90 % of its manufacturing part numbers being new, a new carbon fibre wing, a fuselage made of aluminium lithium, giving the aircraft a structure 60 % made of advanced materials, a new landing gear, a new cabin, and so on. That’s why we shall spend some 4.35 billion Euros on this, to make it the best aircraft in this category. It’s going to be available in two versions and will offer more range, more seats than the competition, and above all will be unbeatable in terms of fuel consumption and cash operating cost per seat. On top of that, our engineers have managed to make this new aircraft type compatible with our existing long range family as customers have requested”.

Details on the A350 orders:

Qatar Airways has acquired 60 Airbus A350s, becoming the largest customer to date for the new airliner and the first client in the Middle East. The deal is for a mix of A350-800s and larger A350-900s.

Deliveries of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350-800s are due to begin in the third quarter of 2010, with those of its A350-900s starting several months later.

“We see ourselves as a leader in passenger comfort and service, building on the benefits of a modern and economical fleet, and are thus very excited about leading the way with the new Airbus A350,” says Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al-Baker. “And with the new Airbus A350 sharing the same cockpit type-rating as the A330s that we fly today, modernising our fleet will be a very simple step.”

Qatar Airways is the largest all-Airbus operator in the Middle East and one of the world’s leading airlines, with a fleet that comprises aircraft from the A320, A300/A310 and A330/A340 families. It is also a customer for the 21st Century flagship, the A380. Qatar Airways will use the A350-800s and –900s on regional and long-haul routes, respectively. Envisaged non-stop routes from Qatar Airways’ Doha base include New York and Melbourne for the A350-800s, and Johannesburg, Manilla and Tokyo for its A350-900s.

Alafco, the Kuwait-based international aircraft leasing company, is to acquire 12 Airbus A350s with options on a further six, becoming one of the first leasing companies to select the new jetliner. Deliveries of ALAFCO’s A350-800s are due to begin in the third quarter of 2012.

“In acquiring the new Airbus A350, we are investing in emerging technologies that will set the character of the industry’s future,” says ALAFCO Chairman and CEO Ahmed Alzabin. “Our studies show that the A350, which will carry the Airbus hallmarks of cabin comfort and economy into a new decade, is the right aircraft for many of our customers in the Middle East and around the world.”

“Sustained growth in Middle East traffic plus a commitment to the long-term mean that ALAFCO is well placed to profit from increasing demand for our new Airbus A350,” says Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Noël Forgeard. “And in featuring technologies and techniques that we pioneered on the Airbus A380, the A350 benefits from an impeccable pedigree.”

GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), a unit of GE Commercial Finance, has signed a letter of intent for a firm order of ten A350s, subject to industrial launch, which is expected in September.

“After many conversations with our airline customers, it is clear a new aircraft like the proposed Airbus A350 will meet the fleet needs of a number of airlines around the world,” said Henry Hubschman, President of GECAS. “Once the programme is launched, GECAS will be well positioned to lease the aircraft to its customers. Order announcements and strong indications of interest from five customers for more than 100 Airbus A350s so far show solid customer demand for this programme.”

“Leasing companies such as GECAS are a good indicator of demand for new aircraft in the marketplace, since they need to anticipate airlines’ needs so as to have aircraft available for delivery when the customer wants them,” says Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard. “GECAS is one of the world’s leading leasing companies, so its early commitment to the Airbus A350, along with ALAFCO, is a good pointer to success in the future.”

GECAS has a fleet of more than 1,300 owned aircraft and offers a full range of aircraft fleet.

Kingfisher Airlines has become the first Indian carrier to sign a firm contract with Airbus for the A350 and A380 – the company’s newest and largest aircraft, respectively. The order is for five A350-800s plus five A380s for intercontinental services.

Deliveries of Kingfisher’s Airbus A380s are due to begin 2010 and those of the A350s in 2012. Engine selections have yet to be announced. Kingfisher will use the A350 and A380 for longer nonstop flights such as to the USA.

“India is one of the world’s fastest growing markets, especially among the younger emerging generation, and these new Airbus aircraft, with their unmatched passenger appeal, economy and commonality, will give us the lead in competing for their business, “ says Dr Vijay Mallya, Chairman of the UB Group, one of India’s largest companies and the parent company of Kingfisher Airlines. “We’ll begin with the Airbus A330, which is a great aircraft and already in widespread service, and then we’ll create a sensation when we become the first Indian carrier with the 21st Century flagship A380, before adding the world’s newest airliner, the A350. Imagine flying the good times, not just in India, but worldwide !”

Longstanding Brazilian customer TAM has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the purchase of 8 A350-900 plus 7 options. Deliveries for the all-new 350 are scheduled to start at the end of 2012.

“We are proud to be the preferred aircraft supplier of TAM and this new order is a proof of TAM’s rapid growth in the Brazilian domestic market and in South America”, said Noël Forgeard, President and Chief Executive Officer of Airbus, “We are confident that the A350 will provide the level of economics, technology and passenger comfort that TAM requires.”

TAM currently has a fleet of 56 Airbus aircraft including 34 A320s, 13 A319s and 9 A330-200s and is the largest Airbus operator in Latin America.

The A350
To enter service in 2010, the A350 Family initially includes two members, the A350-800 able to carry up to 253 passengers in a three-class configuration up to 8,800nm/16,300km, and its larger sister, the A350-900 accommodating as many as 300 passengers in a three-class layout up to 7,500nm/13,900km. These new aircraft share the innovations of the A380 and are endowed with the latest technologies. It is initially to be powered by the new generation GEnx engine.

With up to 60 per cent of weight-saving new advanced materials, in the form of carbon fibre wings and an aluminium-lithium fuselage, the Airbus A350 will be lighter per seat – and hence more economical. This design, together with centralised maintenance and extended check intervals, will also help to give the Airbus A350 attractive maintenance costs.

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