Airbus has finally unveiled its grand revision of the A350XWB program that has been much anticipated in recent weeks.
The result: The A350-1000, the largest version of the aircraft, will get improved performance, but it will come out more expensive, and two years late. Is it a good deal for airlines?
The main feature of the change is increasing the thrust of the Rolls-Rocye TrentXWB engine to 97,000 lb., 4,000 lb. more than forecast. The change allows Airbus to offer 400 naut. mi. more range at maximum passenger number or 4.5 metric tons on a 6,000 naut. mi. route. The change prompts Airbus COO for customers, John Leahy, to boast that the -1000 “does more than the [Boeing] 777-300ER does and it does it with 25% less fuel consumption.”
The engine upgrade is built around better than expected performance on early build TrentXWB-84s for the -900. The engine will have a larger core and other improvements, but retain the 118-inch in diameter fan size.
Airbus has promised Rolls exclusivity on the -1000.
Aircraft changes include a 10 metric ton increase in maximum takeoff weight, and the addition of five aft fuselage frames and six front fuselage frames, as well as structural reinforcements, says Airbus COO Fabrice Bregier. The wing will also be longer with a 300 mm longer trailing edge and new high lift controls and actuators. The capacity of the air conditioning system also has to increase.
Moreover, Airbus is looking to use the extra time to mature some technologies for later introduction, such as composite door frames to replace titanium ones.
The price of the aircraft will also increase, with list price going up $9 million from $299.7 million for the -1000 at 2011 catalogue price.
Still unclear are some of the cost considerations of the changes, including whether existing -1000 customers would have to pay the new price. Etihad has ordered 25 of the aircraft, Qatar and Emirates 20 each, and Asiana 10. Also unclear is if the airlines would be owed delay penalties. The aircraft will still not make the Dubai to L.A. route with maximum passenger numbers, but whether that deters airlines remains to be seen.