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BoeingBoy

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Airbus Redesigns A350

Aviation Week & Space Technology
05/23/2005, page 26

Robert Wall, Michael Mecham and Andy Nativi
Toulouse

Airbus fights back. The manufacturerer redefines A350, eyes 100-plus orders at the Paris air show.

COUNTERATTACK

Airbus has again revised its plans for the A350, turning it from an A330-derivative to a new widebody in the face of rival Boeing's success with its 787.

After first saying the existing A330/A340 family would suffice to compete with the 787, and last year amending that to projecting a mere derivative of the A330, the aircraft will now undergo a more dramatic transformation--a new development at a higher price. About "90% of the part numbers are going to be changed" over the current aircraft type, says Olivier Andries, A350 program manager.

The "all new" A350 will be formally launched at the upcoming Le Bourget air show, says Airbus Chief Commercial Officer John Leahy. And, he adds, the company will snag more than 100 orders there from at least four customers, with Emirates figuring prominently in that group. Before year-end, orders will approach 200 aircraft, he adds. Airbus has a single nominal A350 customer, Air Europa, which signed up last year.

The development tab is expected to reach $5.5 billion, up from $4 billion only a few months ago. To ease the financial burden, Airbus' desire for European government funding is likely to grow. This would sharpen trade tensions with Washington, which has vowed to bring a World Trade Organization subsidy case if European governments grant so-called launch aid for the A350. Airbus says breakeven would occur at 400-500 production aircraft.

Airbus hasn't submitted updated loan requests to reflect the A350 changes. Moreover, for now it is keeping a low profile as European Union and U.S. trade officials hash out the subsidy issue.

Time pressure for A350 decisions has been building, not least for Airbus to avoid losing further competitions. Leahy contends that several airline decisions in which the 787 prevailed may have turned out differently if Airbus had a better candidate on offer. But the 787 isn't the only target. Andries says: "We are positioning our program to be a 777-200ER killer."

A350's design reflects Airbus' overall belief in larger aircraft. It set out to create an aircraft with a 10% higher seat count than the 787. That strategy appears to target more aggressively Europe, Asia and the Middle East, where larger aircraft are preferred. The A350 was basically designed to meet requirements sought by Emirates, according to an industry official.

Given its higher seat count, Airbus says the A350 will be lighter per seat than the 787. "This is a significant driver of cash-operating cost," Andries says.

Arriving at the current stage hasn't been easy. "The fact is, it has taken us an awful long time to get the airplane right," Leahy says. In the last 90 days, the aircraft has changed significantly, he notes, with improvements added to width, seat count and range performance. "We've changed the airplane three to four times" during that period, he says. The configuration was frozen about a month ago.

The A350 should be developed and ready for operational use in 2010. Airbus argues the several-year lag over the 787 isn't a major concern. Its "availability matches the next replacement wave," says Laurent Rouaud, Airbus vice president for market forecast and research. A wave of MD-11, A340 and 777 replacements should emerge around 2011. A second wave will occur around 2017.

Since Boeing's 787 production line is sold out for 2008-09 and nearly sold out for 2010, it actually helps the A350 marketing campaign by taking away Boeing's first-to-market sales advantage, Leahy suggests.

The Airbus A350 would be powered by two GE GEnx turbofans, with a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 offering expected to follow.

BUT MANY PARTNERING DETAILS REMAIN. For instance, Airbus and Finmeccanica's Alenia Aerospace are negotiating work share, with the Italians angling for 10% of the airframe and Airbus offering far less. Those talks need to be concluded in the next two months, suggests a senior Airbus executive. The full industrial team must be in place by year-end.

The 193-ft.-long, 57.1-ft.-high A350-800 will have a 200-ft. 5-in. wingspan. Its maximum takeoff weight would be around 540,100 lb., with a manufacturer's empty weight of 230,700 lb. The 209-ft. 8-in.-long A350-900 would have the same height and wingspan. Empty weight is estimated at 239,000 lb.

Composites will comprise 39% of the A350: aluminum-lithium parts, 23%; steel, 14%; aluminum, 11%; titanium, 9% and other materials the balance. This has led to 17,600 lb. of weight reduction, Andries says. Composite use on the A380 is 20%.

Commonality with the A330 won't disappear entirely. The cockpit will remain largely the same, as will the type rating. But functionalities will be enhanced, Andries says, to be "at least" identical to the 787.

Airbus will offer the aircraft with the General Electric GEnx engine Boeing uses on the 787. The GEnx will come in four thrust ratings from 63,000-75,000 lb. Discussions are in the final stage for the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, Leahy indicated. But Andries says the Rolls availability will likely come later.

Both turbofans will provide bleed air for power generation, whereas Boeing has opted for a non-bleed air configuration. Airbus says bleed air is a more efficient way to generate power, while Boeing believes the higher engine performance of a non-bleed version is attractive. Leahy claims maintenance costs would be higher on a non-bleed system because it requires the addition of electrical power-generation equipment.

As for dimensions, Airbus clearly has had the 787 in mind as it defined the A350. The cabin will be 3 in. wider and is sculpted to offer more headroom than the A330. Also, the A350 will measure 64 in. in head clearance around the window compared with the 787's 61.5 in., Leahy notes. In areas where the 787 has better dimensions, at the center beam, he says the Airbus design may yet be tweaked to match its rival's 2-in. advantage.

Leahy says the A350-800 will offer 258 seats in a two-class configuration--more than the A330--largely by moving the rear bulkhead aft, along with the avionics bay and crew rest area. With full passenger load, the range is expected to reach 8,200 naut. mi., and, Leahy claims, keep operating costs below the 787-800's.

The A350-900 would have 316 seats in a two-class configuration. Leahy concedes that the -900 underperforms the 787-9 in one area--range. The -900 reaches 7,500 naut. mi. compared with the 787's 7,700. However, he says efforts are underway to boost this to 7,700-7,800 naut. mi.

Cruise speed for the A350 is slated to be Mach 0.82, the 787's Mach 0.85. Airbus plays this down, saying it doesn't make a material difference. Airbus also says the A350 will be able to fly at Mach 0.83 with minimum drag impact.

Airbus also is targeting maintenance advantages over its existing product line. So-called A-checks would be done every 800 flight hours and improve to 1,000 flight hours over time, compared to 600 hr. on the A330. Structural checks would take place every 12 years, rather than 10, and eventually, just every 14 years. It wants to best Boeing 787 airframe maintenance costs by 3%, according to Andries.

The new crew rest area will be under the cockpit. It allows direct access from the cockpit and a space that can be secured from the passenger area. The area is being put in place without a major disruption of the avionics bay. Only the inflight entertainment kit would have to be moved to the back of the aircraft, Andries says.

Service entry for the A350-800 is planned for mid-2010, with the -900 to follow later that year.

EADS, Airbus' major shareholder, expects development cost for the A350 to remain rather modest this year, before ramping up. But personnel are already starting to shift from the A380 to the A350 program, according to Charles Champion, executive vice president for the A380.

AIRBUS ARGUES THAT THE A350 launch won't render the existing A330/340 family obsolete, saying the new aircraft addresses a market the others don't.

But a larger question remains. Does the A350 definition experience shape future product development decisions; will the aircraft maker be more willing to launch a new product in the future to avoid being caught flat-footed?

The next opportunity will likely come in the narrow-body market. Leahy contends Boeing will launch a 737 replacement around 2008. Boeing has given no such date. Leahy's strategy is likely aimed at presenting the 737NG as already consigned to the dust heap. He insists a 737 replacement--dubbed Y2--won't change Airbus' strategic commitment to the A320, with perhaps some improvements such as engine technology--a position reminiscent of the A350 strategy of a few months ago.
 
Seems risky that US/HP is taking a risk on an airplane that's not really even fully designed because Airbus spent so much time/effort and money on the 380
 
I don't think HP/US is taking any risks; Airbus said "We'll loan you some dough, provided you buy a few slow-sellers with some of the money." No real downside for the airline - it is desperate for the cash.
 
GE engines, hmm that's not too surprising.

I dunno, I think it has a vaid chance of being a decent competitor to the 787 if they can build it as advertised. The 380 pretty much turned out like they said it would, so I would assume the A350 might do the same.

IMO there is a much larger and viable market for this aircraft than the 380, and it should give US Airways a decent LR widebody toi use
 
It's too bad we can't support an American Corporation..such as Boeing..but most companies like contracting out their labor forces, find it cheaper to buy foreign. Sad state of affairs.
 
WestCoastGuy said:
It's too bad we can't support an American Corporation..such as Boeing..but most companies like contracting out their labor forces, find it cheaper to buy foreign. Sad state of affairs.
[post="273084"][/post]​


True, but don't forget that Boeing does a lot of its manufacturing work overseas and Airbus does a fair amount of its work here in the U.S. Still, Boeing would be preferable, not the least of which IMHO is that it's still a better product - but we can't forget that Boeing didn't float a much-needed $250M loan and Airbus did. Given the same circumstances, I'd choose the Airbus in a heartbeat.
 
WestCoastGuy said:
It's too bad we can't support an American Corporation..such as Boeing..but most companies like contracting out their labor forces, find it cheaper to buy foreign. Sad state of affairs.
[post="273084"][/post]​

The really sucky part of this is the US backs the ATSB loan to stay afloat, then foreign aircraft are bought....No loyalty..
 
The amount of US labor content of the B787 and A350 will probably be very similar. Boeing is even going to do much of the engineering outside of the USA.
 
WestCoastGuy said:
It's too bad we can't support an American Corporation..

I think such a coporation would pretty much be limited to "Hotdog on a Stick" in your local mall. Both company's planes are outsourced so much it is hard to tell which country they are from. Greeter (you know, Greeter at the store that once was all AMERICAN products...until they found religion in China!)
 

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