The next version of Airbus’ latest generation A350 XWB airliner, the A350-1000, is planned to make its first flight during the final quarter of this year. “The -1000 is doing well,” Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Brégier told the media at the company’s annual press conference (held in Paris but transmitted worldwide via the Internet) on Tuesday.
“The [A350-1000’s specified] performance will be met at the first deliveries,” he assured. “So the -1000 is well on track. The -1000 will start its first assembly next month.” The first A350-1000 should be delivered to a customer in mid-2017.
The A350-1000 will be able to carry 366 passengers, as against the 325 in the A350-900, which is the first version of the aircraft to be developed; the first A350-900 was delivered to Qatar Airways in December 2014.
“The 350 was probably the biggest industrial challenge [for Airbus in 2015],” he reported. “We have delivered 14 and we could have delivered 15 if we had not been trapped by some cabin elements of the last aircraft of the year.” (Problems at a supplier company to Airbus delayed the delivery of key cabin fittings.)
“We plan to deliver at least 50 A350s [this year],” he stated. “I think this is doable. It’s not a walk in the park. I would be disappointed if we did not deliver 50 A350s this year.” He noted that ramping up deliveries from one in 2014 to 14 in 2015 to 50 in 2016 “is quite a challenge!”
“The target is to achieve [production of] ten aircraft a month in 2018,” affirmed Brégier. It means we will continue to ramp up in ’16 and ’17. So the game is not over. The first aircraft are extremely difficult to put together.”
The company is already considering further developments of the new airliner family. It has already launched the A350-900ULR version, for Singapore Airlines. ULR stands for Ultra Long Range, and this variant will be able to carry up to 165 000 l of fuel (without needing any extra fuel tanks: it will use an updated version of the existing fuel system). The result will be an airliner capable of flying for 19 hours non-stop between Singapore and New York. This will be the world’s longest commercial passenger route. Singapore will acquire seven A350-900ULRs.
Currently, total orders for the A350 XWB family stand at 777, of which 580 are for the A350-900 and 181 are for the A350-1000. There are also 16 orders for the A350-800, which will be the smallest member of the family, the production of which has not yet been launched.