Artist's impression of the A350 XWB-900 - Image: Airbus
Airbus A350 XWB
The A350 XWB is Airbus's answer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The design for the new Airbus type started as an improved version of the A330, which became rather difficult to sell since Boeing presented the 787. The airlines wanted a more advanced aircraft and forced Airbus to work harder on the new design. At Farnborough 2006 Airbus even presented an all new design, named 'A350 XWB' (eXtra Wide Body). Airbus officially launched the A350 XWB on 1 December 2006.
Several earlier designs based on the A330 still had the fuselage diameter of the good old A300, which allows a 2-4-2 seating arrangement compared to 3-3-3 seating in the 777 and 787. In Spring 2006, urged by criticism from airlines, Airbus started considering a wider fuselage, a larger wing, more powerful engines, a higher cruise speed and many other changes to satisfy the airlines. This resulted in the A350 XWB, but it means much extra development work and the intended in-service-date for the aircraft has slipped from 2010 to 2013, more than four years behind the scheduled introduction into service of the 787.
Airbus has planned three versions of the new airliner: the A350 XWB-800 carrying around 250 passengers in a three-class configuration, the A350 XWB-900, which accommodates around 300 passengers and the A350 XWB-1000 with about 350 seats.
The Airbus A350 XWB will be substantially more fuel-efficient than the A330 and less noisy. About 60 per cent of the A350 airframe will be built of weight-saving advanced materials like carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) and aluminium lithium alloys. In the A330 this is only 15 per cent. The new aircraft will be the first Airbus product with an all-composite wing. The rear fuselage and the tail cone will be constructed from composites as well. An aluminium lithium alloy is used in the forward and aft sections of the fuselage.
The cabin windows will be larger than on the A330. The cockpit crew rest area will be placed beneath the cockpit. This does not only saves space on the main deck, it is also a security precaution to keep the cockpit completely separated from the rest of the aircraft.
The first airline to sign a letter of intent for the A350 XWB was Singapore Airlines. Several other airlines had ordered earlier versions of the A350. Among them are Eurofly, Air Europa (Spain), Kingfisher Airlines (India), Qatar Airways, TAM (Brazil), US Airways, Finnair and several leasing companies.
Artist's impression of a China Airlines A350 - Image: Airbus