Airbus has received approval from its shareholders, EADS and BAE Systems to begin making firm commercial offers to launch customers for two new members of its wide-body Family that will aim to compete with rival Boeing’s 7E7.
Due to enter service in the first half of 2010, two years after the 7E7, the A350 models will complement the existing Airbus A330 and A340 product line and are expected to follow the A380 in utilising composite technology for wing design and other structural parts. It is anticipated that the increase in performance capabilities in the A350 will be brought about by an increased use of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and aluminium-lithium alloys.
“The long range market is becoming more segmented in terms of size and range. Airbus has listened to its customers, who were interested in the medium size category with greater range to complement their current Airbus wide-body Families. As a result of this demand, we are now pleased to offer the A350, which, in addition to its intrinsic characteristics, is in the unique position of being a full member of a comprehensive airliner family, hence benefiting from an unmatched level of commonality”, said Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard on the occasion of the announcement. “We are now in the unique position to satisfy all airlines’ demands in the long range sector, from the 250 seater to the high capacity A380.””
The market for aircraft in the 250-300 seat category is estimated at some 3,100 new aircraft over the next 20 years, of which Airbus expects to get at least 50 per cent.
The A350 will be offered in two versions. The A350-800 will typically seat 245 passengers in a long range three class configuration and have a range in excess of 8,600 nm / 15,900 km) providing ultra long range capability in this “medium size” seating category, and offering the lowest seat mile costs for this less dense long range market. Seating 285 passengers in a similar configuration, the A350-900 will have a range of more than 7,500 nm / 13,900 km, allowing operators to benefit from exceptionally low unit costs in the most competitive mainstream markets.
The A350 models will benefit from technologies, materials and manufacturing processes used on the A380, and will draw from composite wing design and Airbus manufacturing know-how. Although eligible for a choice of engines, the initial A350s will be powered by two new generation General Electric engines which, thanks to new technologies, will generate a double-digit improvement in fuel efficiency.
Airbus have confirmed that the A350 will typically carry 245-285 passengers over distances of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km), providing airlines with longer range versions of the A330, which already accounts for over 60% of this market sector and with which the A350 will share a single type rating for pilots.
The A350-800 offers airlines a range of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km) in a three-class, 245 seat layout and under-floor space for six 96 inch x 125 inch (244 centimetre x 317 centimetre) cargo pallets (after provision for passenger baggage).
The A350-900 offers a range of up to 7,500 nm (13,900 km) with 285 seats in a three-class configuration. The A350-900 has the lowest seat-mile cost of any like-sized airliner, making it attractive to A330-200 operators, who can easily add the higher capacity aircraft to their fleet and to airlines seeking a substantially more economic replacement for heavier, older twin aisle aircraft. The A350-900 is suitable on routes between all major European and US cities, between all major city pairs within the Asia/Pacific region and between emerging Middle East hubs and all major European, African and many Asian cities.
These performance capabilities will be achieved thanks to the introduction of substantial technical and manufacturing innovations, notably those developed and implemented on the A380. Airbus’ proven expertise in the development and application of composites and innovative new materials will be used to incorporate a high percentage of lightweight structural materials, such as Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and aluminium-lithium alloys. For example, the A350 wing will be largely manufactured using CFRP. Furthermore, the A350 wing will deliver exceptional low and high-speed efficiency thanks to cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques and the integration of ‘droop nose’ technology from the A380.
Improved manufacturing and assembly techniques, pioneered on other aircraft in the Airbus Family, such as the A318 and the A380, will provide additional weight reduction, while adding structural durability and decreasing maintenance costs. The A350 will follow the same production philosophy as the rest of the Airbus Family, with final assembly taking place in Toulouse.
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