Less than two years after the entry into service of the A350-900 in Qatar Airways, a twin-engine aircraft of 314 seats in the configuration triclasses standard, its big brother, the A350-1000, has carried out this Thursday in Toulouse, the first flight of a test campaign, which must lead to a commissioning in the second quarter of 2017. A fundamental step for Airbus to compete with Boeing on the market for very large aircraft long-haul of more than 350 seats, valued at more than 1,000 billion dollars over the next 20 years.
The B777-300 ER dominates the market
With this juggernaut able in effect to carry 366 passengers on flights of long distance, Airbus is launching its tour, nearly two years after Boeing, on the market for long-haul aircraft of very large capacity with two motors. A market dominated by the Boeing 777-300 ER (365 seats), launched in 1999 and put in service in 2004, version for very long radius of action of the B777-300, launched a few years ago. A plane that shows the table of hunting the most impressive of the sector, since the B777-300 ER can boast of having killed him all alone all the quadriréacteurs (four engines) of his generation, that they are of the same class as the A340-600 or a lot larger still, like its cousin, the boeing B747, or A380. The weapon is well-known : With two engines instead of four for a seat that is not too far removed from that of the 747 or the A380 (and superior to the latter in terms of the bunkers), this type of very large jets, has been praised by airlines for the weakness of its cost s at headquarters.
The A350 more efficient than the B777-300 ER
It is for this reason that, in announcing the launch of the programme A350XWB at the end of 2006, Airbus has planned, also to respond on this niche. In addition to the A350-800 with 270 seats (who has not seen the light of day) and the A350-900 with 314 seats, which allowed him to fight against the B787 and the B777-200, the european company presented the A350-1000, with a capacity of 350 seats at the time to counter the 787 and 777-200, and the A350-1000 to compete with the B777-300 ER, and then its successor, the B777X, which was of course launched in 2013, but Airbus had knowledge of the project. So far, the sales of the A350-1000 not being up to expectations of the management of Airbus, it was decided to improve it. In June 2011, the company announced a new powertrain (a Trent XWB 97,000 lb thrust, compared to 94 000 originally), which allowed to extend the radius of action of 400 nautical miles (about 740 miles) of the A350-1000. Airbus ensures that the A350-1000, much lighte r in weight, consumes 25% less than the B777-300ER. However, with 195 aircraft to the meter, the level of orders is not exceptional today.
The revolution of the engine
in The early 2000s, shortly after the launch of the A380 and the certification of the airbus A340-600 in 2002, never Airbus to do was build a decade later a plane like the A350-1000, capable of performing more or less the same missions with two engines only.
It is Boeing and especially the engine manufacturer, General Electric, which has changed the situation with the Boeing 777 equipped with the famous engine-GE90. A dreadful reliability, these huge engines with a high rate of dilution of which the diameter equals that of the fuselage of an A320, have made it possible to postpone still further the rules on ETOPS, which require, for security reasons, the jets to follow a route that places them at any time to a maximum duration of an airport diversion.
The big jets, how far ?
In fact, pushing these limits for up to three hours of flight, the planes were forced to make a zig zag, and could take more direct routes and de facto more popular for passengers. How far can go these very large aircraft with two engines ? Originally designed for 350 passengers in version triclasses, the A350 is now presented in 366 seats. It will be in competition with the Boeing 777-8X (350 seats), but will still remain far from the B777-9X (406 seats) is due in 2020. Because Boeing has chosen to replace its B777-300 ER, not by one but by two planes.
Airbus is already thinking about an A350-2000 can accommodate 400 passengers, while Boeing is already thinking of a B777-10X of the 450 seats. Sizes for the kick almost comparable to those of the B747 and the A380. Such capabilities reduce the chances of launching an improved version of the A380.