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First look at the Airbus A350 XWB. What's all the


fuss about?
Images,thespecsandthetroubledhistoryofAirbus'superlightweightplane.CanittakeonBoeing
andimportantly,whatdoesitmeanfortravelers?
ByKarlaCripps(/author/karlacripps)
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13November,2012

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TheverticaltailplaneofthefirstA350XWBthatwillfly,freshoutofthepainthallinToulouse,
France.
AirbusrecentlyopenedthefinalassemblylineforitsA350XWBfamilyofaircraft,givingaviation
fanaticsacloserlookatthefamilyofsuperefficientpassengerplanesdesignedtogoheadto
headagainstrivalBoeings787Dreamlinerand777s.
Butwhatexactlyisthisplanegoingtooffertravelers?AndwhydidittakeAirbussolongtogetit
right?
First,thespecs.
TheXWBinthenamemeanswidebodiedaircraft.Therearethreemembersinthe350family:
theA350800,theA350900andtheA3501000,whichseat270,314and350passengers,
respectively,inthreeclassseating.
Todate,Airbussaysithasreceived558firmordersfrom34customers118arefortheA350800,
352fortheA350900and88fortheA3501000.QatarAirwillbecomethefirstoperatorofthe
A350inthesecondhalfof2014.
Thesmallestinthefamily,the
60.54meterA350800,ispriced
atUS$245.5million,whilethe
popularmidsizedA350900,
66.89metersinlength,is$277.7
million.

ThelargestmodeloftheA350familyistheA3501000.The
smallest,the60.54meterA350800,ispricedatUS$245.5
millionandseats270.

Thelargestofthethree
lightweightcarboncomposite
aircraft,theA3501000,is73.88
meterslongandhasarangeof
approximately8,400nautical
miles,or15,600kilometers.The
catalogpriceisUS$320.6million
andAirbussaysthismodelisin
highdemand,withnoslots
availableuntil2018.

Itwillofferairlinesanineabreast
configurationineconomyandeightabreastinpremiumeconomy,while10abreastseatingis
availableforhighdensitylayouts,whichwouldallowtheairlinetoaccommodateupto440
passengersinhighdensitya.k.a.crampedthreeclassseating.
Onthetechnicalside,thebigappealforairlinesisthatover70percentoftheA350XWBs
airframeismadefromadvancedmaterialsthatcombinecomposites(53percent),titaniumand
advancedaluminumalloys.
"A350initstechnologyiskindoflikeasmallerA380,saysBobLange,AirbusVPofmarketing.
AlotofthetechnologywereputtingintotheA350wepioneeredontheA380first.Thebig
differenceisthatwereusingalotmorecarboncompositematerialintheA350thanweareinthe
A380.Itsasteadyevolutionratherthanrevolution.Itsfocusedonefficiency."
TheA350isthefirstAirbuspassengerjettousebothfuselageandwingstructuresmadeprimarily
ofcarbonfiberreinforcedpolymer,resultinginlowerfuelburnaswellaseasiermaintenance.
Thisiswherethecomparisontothe787Dreamlinerbecomesapt.
The787,oneofthemostadvancedlaunchesintotheairlineindustryinrecentyears,ismadeup
of50percentcompositesanduses20percentlessfuelthanotheraircraftinthesamecategory.It
alsohasbigger,dimmablewindowsandroomiercabinsthanitspredecessors.
TheA350'sadvancedtechnologieswillgiveairlinesupto25percentbetterfuelefficiencyand
operatingcostsagainsttodaysaircraftofthesamesize,saysAirbus.
Alsoofnotearetheairplane'sintriguinglooking"winglets"wingextensionsthatplayarolein
improvingtheaircraft'sefficiencybyincreasingtheaspectratioofawingandthusthelift
generatedatthewingtip.
MoreonCNN:Boeing7478vs.AirbusA380theairlinegiantsfaceoff
(http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/boeing7478andairbusa380deathmatch152563)

Fortravelers
WiththeAirbusA350being
toutedasamoreefficientplane,
manytravelersmightbehoping
airlineswillpassthosesavings
ontocustomers.

AgraphicrenderingoftheA350suitedupinSingapore
Airline'slivery.TheAsiancarrierrecentlyadded20moreA350
XWBjetlinerstoitsorder.

AviationjournalistDavid
KaminskiMorrow,airtransport
editorofFlightglobal.com
(http://www.flightglobal.com/),
acknowledgesthatfuelefficiency
isthemainfeaturedrivingairline
interestintheA350,"butwhile
thatmightreducetheairlines
costmargins,itshardtosay
howmuchofthatsavingwill
ultimatelybepassedtothe
passengerintheformoflower
fares,giventheelevated

expenditureonfuel."
Intermsoftheinflightexperience,AirbuspromisestheA350XWBswidefuselagecrosssection
willofferpassengersanoptimumtravelexperienceinallclassesofservice.
"Passengerswillenjoymoreheadroom,widerpanoramicwindowsandlargeroverheadstorage
space,"saysthecompany.
Thecabincrosssectionis220inchesfromarmresttoarmrest,sothejetlinerscabindoesprovide
thewidestseatsinitscategory,beingfiveincheslargerthanitsnearestcompetitor.Kaminski
Morrowdoesn'tthinkthedifferenceinfuselagewidthcomparedwiththeBoeing787isverymuch.
"Itsdebatablewhethereconomyclasspassengerswillnoticeamarginallywiderseat,"hesays.
"Themodernenginesmayappearquieter,somethingwhichpassengersonthecurrentA380have
tendedtonotice."
Healsoaddspassengersexpectingagroundbreakingplanewithfuturisticbellsandwhistleswill
likelybedisappointed.Butthatisn'tnecessarilyabadthing,givenairlines'tendencytodingfliers
extrafornewexperiences.
WhentheA380cameintoservice,incidentally,airlineswereactuallyabletochargepassengers
higherfaresforthenoveltyofflyingonthenewaircraft,butIsuspectthiswontberepeatedat
leastnottothesameextentontheA350becauseitsamoreconventionaldesign.

Airbusvs.Boeing

InsidetheA350assemblyplantinToulouse,southernFrance,Airbusisnowputtingtogetherthe
firstflyableA350.

Airbusdecisiontodevelopasingleaircraftfamilytochallengeboththe787andthelarger777
wasariskymove,sayaviationanalysts.
Thatsatallorderforasingledesign,andAirbushasparticularlystruggledwithadaptingthe
A350slargestversion(the1000)tocompetewiththe777averyefficient,highcapacity
aircraft.saysKaminskiMorrow.
AirbushasalreadyhadtorethinkthedesignoftheA3501000,whichhasresultedinadelayinits
entryintoairlineservice,butithasalsoforcedBoeingtoconsidermodernizingthe777inorderto
stayaheadofthecompetition.
Indeed,thepressureisnowonBoeingtospeedupdevelopmentofits777replacement,butthe
UnitedStatescompanyisn'treleasingmanydetailsontherevampedaircraft,fornowdubbedthe
777X.
"Boeingisdevelopingoptionstoimproveonthe777'spopularitybyworkingwithourcustomerson
theirrequirementsandwefeelverycomfortablewithwhereweareinthatprocess,"saysWilson
ChowofBoeingInternational'scommunicationsdepartment.
"Wecontinuetoinvestallthenecessarytimeandresourcestoensureweproduceasignificantly
superiorairplanewhenourcustomersrequireit."
ChowpointsoutthatthreeofthefourA3501000customershaveevenplacedincrementalorders
forthe777.
"Theseareclearsignsthatour
customersunderstandthevalue
the777providesrelativetoour
competitor,"hesays.
"The777hasarecordof
continuousimprovements.Itwill
benefitfromyearsofadditional
refinementsbasedoncustomer
inputbeforetheA3501000is
scheduledtoenterservice."
travelers
Airbus vs.

MajorcomponentsandsectionsoftheA350XWBare
manufacturedatAirbusfacilitiesinGermany,Spain,France
andtheUnitedKingdom,thenshippedtothefinalassembly
lineinToulouse,France.

Airbusinterpretsthoseorders
somewhatdifferently,chalkingit
uptothefacttheirA3501000is
justtoopopular.

"Wereaheadofthegamewith
theA3501000,slotsarent
availablebefore2018andpeoplewantplanesearlierandthisiswhyweareseeingsomeorders
forthe777,"saysacommunicationsrepresentativeforAirbus.
AsfortheDreamliner787,Boeingcurrentlyhas838ordersfrom58customers.Todate,theyve
delivered33787stosevencustomers.
MoreonCNN:DreamlinermakesU.S.debut(http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/dreamliner
makesusdebut054456)

Noeasyride

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Comment

ThewingspanonallmodelsoftheA350familyis64.75meters.

ThoughitwouldappearAirbusnowhasanadvantageoverBoeingintheracetodevelop
lightweightmidsizedaircraft,gettingitsA350programinlinewithairlinesexpectationswasnot
withoutembarrassmentorexpense.
Aviationfollowershavebeenoglingdevelopmentswithamixtureoffascinationanddisbeliefsince
theA350'sinitiallaunchin2007.
AirbussinitialA350designwasntanentirelynewaircraft,butakneejerkreactiontothe787,
explainsKaminskiMorrow.
Thecompany,whichwashipdeepinsortingoutA380development,simplyhadntforeseenthe
hugepentupdemandforamoreefficient250seatairliner,andtriedtotaketheeasywayoutby
offeringareenginedversionofitsA330."
WhiletheA330isincrediblypopular,theairlinesweremoreinterestedinthepotentialefficiency
offeredbyacleansheetdesign,headds.
Beingpubliclylambastedbysomeofitslargestcustomersoneexeccalleditabandaidreaction
tothe787Dreamliner,theCEOofSingaporeAirsaidtheplanejustdidntgofarenoughthe
pressurewasonforAirbustocomeupwithaplanethatwouldgenuinelyadvancetheglobal
aviationscene.
Andevenearlierthisyeartherewerecancellations.AbuDhabibasedairlineEtihadAirways
axedsevenorders(http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/etihadcutsa3501000orderagain
371497/)forA3501000s,sayingtheystillwerenthappywiththedesign,criticizingitsrange,
performanceandfuelburn.
"AirbusbelatedlywokeupandcounteredwithacompletelynewversionoftheA350,and
managedtotapintothemarket,saysKaminskiMorrow.
Followinguponthepreliminarystructuralandsystemstestsonanassembledbutgrounded
aircraft,AirbusisnowassemblingitsfirstflyableA350,whichitexpectstostarttestingnextyear.

Factorypics

OptimisedforafastcruisespeedofMach0.85,theA350XWBs
wingsenhancethejetlinersoveralloperationaleffectivenessand
improveitsrange,saysAirbus.

GovernmentofficialsandmediaattheA350finalassemblylineinToulouselastmonth.

"Itstartsreallyupstream,"saysBobLange,AirbusVPofmarketing,oftheaircraftdevelopment
process."Itsnotjuststructural.Wetestallthesystems,wehavealltheaircraftcontrolsystems
andsurfaceslaidoutinahangerhere[inToulouse]connectedtoaflightsimulatorandthattesting
startsacoupleofyearsbeforethefirstflight."

ThecockpitoftheA350XWB,underassemblyattheplantinToulouse,southernFrance.Airbus
expectstobegintestflightsin2013.

Over70percentoftheA350XWBsairframeismadefromadvancedmaterialsthatcombine
composites,titaniumandadvancedaluminiumalloys.

Karlaisaneditor/writerforCNNTravelbasedinBangkok,
Thailand.
(/author/karlacripps)

ReadmoreaboutKarlaCripps(/author/karlacripps)

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maxb500 a day ago


So that means it has more composite materials then the 787. Even if this plane is
only slightly more efficient it will simply win most orders compared to the 787 sales over
both the planes lifespans. Fuel cost is everything these days. Especially for planes which
fly so many hours. Not strange then this A350 already has so many orders while it isn`t
even flight testing until next year.
Unless Boeing lowers it`s price on the 787 and works with smaller profit margins this could
be problematic. They already are behind with the 737 vs the 320 NEO since the 320NEO
has so many orders already and while an old design it`s still a much newer design and
more economical then the 737 even if it`s upgraded. And it needs more costly changes
since the 737 base height is too low for the new engines. Perhaps Boeing should have
gone with a completely new 737 and leave Airbus with the old design? Interesting.
Well it doesn`t really mater since both companies are doing very well and are both western
companies. What is of greater concern is if China starts stealing orders with it`s new
planes in the making. They simply steal and copy western tech and persuade other
western companies to work with them. Including the engines. I don`t understand why
Boeing and Airbus never developed their own engines or worked together on this. Now
China can simply by those newest engines from Western companies and have it`s planes
use latest lightweight materials and start selling. Once they have the things coming out of
the factory they simply will shift to ever more Chinese companies for components and
copy the once they still have not developed themselves. That could be terrible for many
Western companies.
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Alex a day ago


You called it an A250-900 near the top portion.
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BenJi Unkown 2 days ago


Looks insane. Are the wings currently supported on their own, or is there
something holding it?
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