Home' Asian Aviation : AAV March 2011. Contents Programme Update
Airbus's A350XWB takes wing
Airbus is aiming the new 270- to 440-passenger A350 XWB family at a forecast US$1.34 trillion, 20-year market for
6,240 twin-aisle jetliners, reports European correspondent Ian Goold.
The Airbus A350 twin-aisle twinjet
development programme took wing
for the rst time last September,
when ying began with a carbon
fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP)
fuselage panel tted to an A340
test aircra .
e European manufacturer intends to use CFRP
panels extensively in the A350's fuselage structure,
in place of conventional aluminium-alloy materials.
e company's factory in Nantes, France, produced
the panel, which was own for three weeks in tests
to assess the material's acoustic characteristics under
pressurised conditions. Once full ight-testing of the
A350 begins, ve aircra are scheduled to take part in
the 2,600-hour programme.
Marketed as the A350 XWB (standing for "extra-
wide body"), the jetliner is to be available in at least
three variants, with 250 to 400-plus seats, that will
be aimed at a predicted market for 6,240 twin-aisle
aircra over the next two decades. Airbus, which
currently ser ves the widebody jetliner segment with
its A330 twinjet and four-engined A340, values the
market at US$1.34 trillion.
By the beginning of this year, Airbus had taken
rm orders from 36 customers for some 583 A350s,
including 63 during 2010. In the greater Asia region,
these clients include AirAsia X (which has ordered ten
aircra ), Air China (another ten), Asiana Airlines (30),
Bangkok Air ways (four), Cathay Paci c (30), China
Airlines (14), Hawaiian Airlines (six), Hong Kong
Airlines (15), King sher Airlines ( ve), Singapore
Airlines (20), and Vietnam Airlines (ten).
e A350 family will comprise the -800, -900, and
-1000 variants, o ering ranges of up to 8,500 nautical
miles. e A350-800 will be a 'shrunk' version of the
larger -900, accommodating 270 passengers in a typical
three-class layout, while the A350-900 and A350-1000
will seat 314 and 350 passengers, respectively. Each
model can be con gured in a high-density layout with
as many as 440 seats.
Airbus says A350 passenger cabins offer more
headroom, wider windows, and larger overhead
storage space than current competitors. e 220-inch
internal cross-section provides "the widest seats in its
category", the manufacturer claims. e cabin interior
is only slightly smaller than the 222-inch external
diameter of all previous Airbus widebodies, a size the
manufacturer has always regarded as having been a
Design of the baseline A350-900 was frozen in
December 2008 and Airbus is planning for entry-
into-ser vice with Qatar Airways in 2013. e smaller
-800 is to enter ser vice in 2014, a year ahead of the
A350-1000 agship. With the -900 taking most of
the manufacturer's attention, the planned mid-2010
timing for A350-1000 design freeze has slipped and
detail design is now set for completion by the end of
Although the Airbus website's A350 airport-
compatibility information still referred in February to
the rst example of the new aircra being "produced
in July 2011", the company has conceded that nal
assembly will not begin now until the end of the year.
Even so, Airbus o cials continue to discuss a nine-
month assembly and test period and a rst ight in
mid- 2012. Assembly of "main components" will start
in the middle of 2011, Chief Operating O cer Fabrice
Meanwhile, the manufacturer expects this year to
begin wing assembly in the UK, start ight trials with a
Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine mounted on an A380
test-bed, and commence A350 systems testing on the
company's 'Iron Bird' ground-test rig in Toulouse.
Airbus intends that the A350 family will provide a 25
percent reduction in fuel-consumption compared with
current long-range competition.
About 70 percent of the A350 airframe will constitute
composite material structures, titanium, and advanced
aluminium alloys. Composites alone will account for
about 53 percent.
As well as improved e ciency, the CFRP-panelled
fuselage is expected to offer easier maintenance.
Many of the panels and other CFRP components
being manufactured by Airbus's rst- and second-tier
partners use Cetex CF laminates supplied by TenCate
Advanced Composites Europe, part of the Royal
TenCate aerospace composites business.
e latest A350 development update, released in
January, says some 13,000 engineers are engaged in
the programme, about half of them with suppliers
and partners, and Airbus expects its in-house A350
workforce to peak at about 12,000. Selection of
industrial suppliers is complete and major parts are
now being manufactured and prepared for transport
to Toulouse for nal assembly.
Recent programme highlights include completion of
the initial 64.6 centre-fuselage "crown" panel at Spirit
AeroSystems in the USA and curing of forward-section
Airbus wants to claim a slice of an estimated US$1.34 trillion
widebody jetliner market over the next 20 years with its A350 XWB.
AsianAviation | MARCH 2011 33
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