Airbus A350 XWB
The Airbus A350 XWB is a mid-size long-haul widebody airliner seating 270 to 350 passengers. It is Airbus's newest widebody aircraft and a replacement for the A340. The A350 competes with both the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
When the success of the Boeing 787 took shape after its launch in April 2004 with lots of airline orders, Airbus management publicly admitted that 'it was caught sleeping'. At first, in 2004, the Airbus managers thought they could simply counter the 787 with a 'warmed-up' version of the A330, the same aircraft with new engines and improved aerodynamics.
The airlines were not impressed, however, and Airbus officially launched a further improved aircraft as 'A350' in October 2005, which incorporated a new wing, new engines and other improvements, but it remained to be based on the A330's fuselage. Airlines and leasing companies commented that it was still not good enough. They wanted a 'clean-sheet' design. In 2006, listening to the criticism, Airbus decided to develop an all-new airliner designated 'A350 XWB' (Xtra Wide Body). The fuselage of the new design is a little wider than that of the 787 and also 31 cm (12 in) wider than that of the earlier Airbus widebodies based on the A300 fuselage. But not as wide as the fuselage of the 777.
The maiden flight of the A350 took place on 14 June 2013 from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport and in December 2014, Qatar Airways received its first aircraft of 80 ordered. On 15 January 2015, the airline performed the A350's first commercial flight from Doha to Frankfurt.
Like the 787, the A350 has an all-composite fuselage. The cabin offers higher cabin pressure and humidity than older airliners for better passenger comfort, and the cabin windows are bigger than those of the A300, but not as big on the 787. The A350's fuselage has an ovoid cross section and it has a constant width from door 1 to door 4 to provide maximum usable cabin volume. The cabin allows eight-, nine- or even ten-abreast seating. The 787 has room for eight to nine seats per row and the 777 seats nine or ten passengers per row. In the highest-density layout the A530-900 can carry up to 440 passengers and the A350-1000 550.
The wing, constructed of carbon fibre, has an upwards curved tip instead of wingtip fences or winglets like earlier Airbus aircraft have. The A350-1000 will have a slightly adapted wing with a 4 per cent increase in surface area compared with the A350-900. Airbus offers only one engine option: the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB.
The A350 has a newly designed nose section. In early designs Airbus proposed a four-panel windshield, but later it chose for six panels. The cockpit has a new six-screen configuration with two central displays mounted one above the other. The A350 also features a head-up display (HUD), a transparent display which presents flight data to the pilots while they keep looking outside instead of turning their heads and eyes down on the instrument panel. This makes landing easier in adverse weather. After the problems the Boeing 787 faced with its lithium-ion batteries, Airbus chose older nickel-cadmium technology instead.
Airbus had planned three main versions of the A350: the A350-800, -900 and -1000. However, the A350-800, the smallest variant for 276 passengers, will never be built after the launch of the A330neo.
The standard A350-900 seats 314 passengers in a three-class layout and has a range of 15,000 km (8,100 nm). It competes with the longest version of the Boeing 787, the 787-10.
The Airbus A350-1000 XWB takes off for its maiden flight on 24 November 2016. (Photo: Airbus)
- A350-1000 -
The stretched A350-1000 measures almost 74 metres from nose to tail (73.78 m to be exactly, 242.1 ft). That is 7,00 metres longer than the standard A350-900. In a typical three-class configuration, the A350-1000 seats 366 passengers. In a high-density layout the cabin accommodates up to 440 passengers. The maiden flight of the A350-1000 took place on 24 November 2016.
The A350-1000 is intended to compete with the Boeing 777. The A350-1000 is fitted with two much more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, the only engine option for the airliner. With 97,000 lbs of thrust on take-off this is the most powerful engine ever developed for an Airbus aircraft. The aircraft is capable to fly very long routes of up 14,800 km (7,990 nm). The A350-1000 XWB is scheduled to enter service in 2017. Launch customer is Qatar Airways.
The main undercarriage legs of the A350-900 have four wheels. The first variant of the A350-1000 will have four-wheel bogies too, but planned heavier variants of both the -900 and the -1000 will have six-wheel bogies to allow more weight for fuel to increase range.
Until late 2016 Airbus collected 810 firm orders for the A350: around 600 A350-900s, 195 A350-1000s and, still in the books, 16 A350-800s, which will never be built.
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