Rolls Helps Airbus Stretch Range and Payload

 - November 12, 2011, 9:10 AM

With engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, Airbus is developing an enhanced A350-1000 variant with “outstanding [increased] payload and long[er] range, the best economics and 25-percent lower fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions than [the Boeing 777-300ER].”

Changes from earlier concepts of the twin-aisle twinjet include work on the outer wing and landing gear. The move comes as Boeing addresses “777-8X and -9X” improvements in studies that likely include a composites wing, using 787 technology and a more-efficient General Electric powerplant. It is also considering the schedule for proposed 787-10 and -10X variants to compete against other A350 models.

Rolls-Royce claims the proposed more-powerful, 97,000-pound-thrust Trent XWB variant will be “the most advanced civil-aircraft engine on offer.” Enhanced performance comes from high-temperature turbine technology, a larger core and advanced fan aerodynamics.

R-R says the engine will provide significant design and systems-integration benefits that will reduce “fuel burn, life-cycle costs and environmental impact.” The variant–scheduled to run first in mid-2014–will adopt innovations from R-R’s Advance 3 technology demonstrators, which will support enhanced performance planned for other Trent engines.

The improved A350-1000 is being considered by Singapore Airlines (SIA) alongside the competing 777-300ER (with any new enhancements). SIA, which will be the second A350 operator, has ordered 20 A350-900s and eight 777-300ERs. The improvements, which have delayed service entry until 2017, have not received an enthusiastic response from launch customers Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline, but Airbus is adamant that it will not change the design further.

The two launch carriers are supported by Air Lease, which says Airbus and Rolls-Royce must “work really hard” to make the A350-1000 competitive against the 777-300ER. The lessor is particularly troubled that the 97,000-pound-thrust Trent XWB is not interchangeable with that on the A350-900, due to “a lack of commonality.”

Air Lease also has reservations about performance, especially in hot-and-high conditions, saying, “Airbus has to tackle payload range [with] a full passenger load, [but the aircraft] also needs good freight capacity [to produce] revenue in the belly.”