The long awaited Airbus A350 will make its debut tomorrow when Qatar Airways takes delivery in Toulouse, France. A series of press conferences and meetings will precede the delivery ceremony, which is expected to be held at noon, local time.
A decade ago Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, suggested to Airbus that they take note of the competition being created by Boeing’s “super-efficient” 787 jet, which was based on a carbon-composite design. The Boeing aircraft was offering a 30 percent saving on fuel costs.
However the Airbus engineers viewed the 787 as a marketing ploy, deciding that it would be a short-lived victory in the aeronautical stakes. As Al Baker was planning for rapid growth in his company’s regional and long-haul market, he told the manufacturer that the installation of new General Electric produced engines into their A330 was a minor and inadequate upgrade.
According to Al Baker, passengers were looking for improved customer comfort, while the airline was looking for “technologically forward-thinking.” After another two years, Airbus eventually commenced with plans to build the A350XWB, which will be delivered in France tomorrow.
A unique feature of the new A350 is in its construction. Fifty-three percent of the plane’s weight is made up of plastic. Two single pieces of “carbon fibre reinforced polymer” makeup the aircraft’s lightweight wings, which are designed to sweep upwards.
Aeronautical observers and engineers are saying the Airbus A350, which makes its debut in France tomorrow is the next decade’s last “truly innovative aircraft.” An example of this innovation is the aircraft’s new engine manufactured by Rolls-Royce, the TrentXWB.
The Rolls-Royce engine has undergone considerable air and ground testing equalling approximately 11,000 hours. The aircraft manufacturer is confident that the money spent on the engine, which was produced over ten years, will contribute to a fuel saving of 25 percent.
The New Zealand Herald Aviation reporter Grant Bradley, was on board the new A350 in August this year on a “route-proving tour” flying from Auckland to Sydney. He wrote about his experience of the plane in comparison to its strongest competitor, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Two years earlier Bradley rode the same route on the Boeing demonstration run. His comments suggested that most of the aircraft’s features were similar. However, one distinct difference Bradley noted, was Airbus’s use of traditional pull-down window blinds, which the company said block out 100 percent of light, as opposed to the questionable efficiency of Boeing’s windows, which are dimmed at the press of a button. Overall however, it seems the biggest differences will only be determined when the A350 is fully loaded and flying its regular routes.
Airbus claims to have 778 orders for the A350 compared to the 1055 ordered 787s. With this in mind, Airbus has said they intend to make at least 10 more A350s by the end of 2018. Meanwhile competition will continue to be strong between the two giants of the airways, as Boeing and Airbus compete for the lion’s share of a market valued at around $1.9 trillion over the next two decades.
As the Airbus A350 makes its debut in France tomorrow, it will mark the end of a ten year wait for both the manufacturer, and Qatar Airways. With Airways News and Airbus both offering live coverage of the delivery with all its fanfare and glory, there will no doubt be a world of eyes watching as the A350 touches down on the runway in Toulouse, France.
By Monica Grant
Photo by Faisal Akram – Flickr License