Four years after the surprise launch of the Airbus A350XWB airliner, engine maker Rolls-Royce is still faced with two pleasant surprises from what might have seemed an ill-timed program given the impending global recession. First, it remains the sole powerplant provider for the new widebody airliner.
Airbus and U.S.-based Spirit AeroSystems showed how European funding benefits workers on both sides of the Atlantic last week, as Spirit formally opened a new 500,000-sq-ft plant in Kinston, N.C., where employees will design and manufacture composite fuselage upper and lower shells and the front wing spar for the Airbus A350 XWB.
Following the initial clamor of righteous indignation over the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) June 30 ruling on U.S. government allegations that Airbus has benefited unfairly from illegal state financing for its airliner programs, there came a silence.
According to Airbus Corporate Jets, as business jet use becomes more widespread in mainland China the aircraft will make an important contribution to further expanding the exporting country’s economy. “When a company uses a corporate jet, the productivity of its executives is multiplied, allowing them to manage the business more effectively,” Airbus COO for customers John Leahy said.
Rolls-Royce ran the Trent XWB engine for the first time on Thursday aboard a testbed in Derby, UK, the company announced on Friday. Chosen to power the Airbus A350 XWB, the Trent XWB remains the sole powerplant option for the new airliner. The engine’s first run meets program commitments established in 2006, said Rolls-Royce.
According to Airbus Corporate Jets, as business jet use becomes more widespread in mainland China–which is growing increasingly hospitable to general aviation operations in the country–the aircraft will make an important contribution to further expanding its economy.
It seems Boeing hasn’t convinced everyone of the value of its standard engine interface feature on the 787 Dreamliner, which the company says allows quick and cost-effective changeability between the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s and GE GEnx-1B turbofans chosen to power the airplane.
The single-aisle product strategy revealed this month by Airbus marks the first public move in what promises to be a fascinating duel with Boeing to provide new designs to replace many thousands of 150-seat, single-aisle airliners. But do not look for new production lines any time soon.
Airbus appears to have exhausted all its A350XWB development “buffer,” leaving designers and engineers with little margin for error as the company prepares the first A350-900 for its first flight and the model's delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways in mid-2013.