As the only widebody airliner on display on the show’s static park, the newly certified A350-1000 takes top billing here in Singapore, where it flew in from Hanoi as part of a 12-city tour of Asia and the Middle East. On display until February 8, flight-test example MSN 65 has already visited the Doha base of launch customer Qatar Airways, where CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters that he expects to take delivery of the first of 37 airplanes on order by February 15. Next it goes to Bangkok, followed by Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Manila.
Billed as a modern and more efficient replacement for the Boeing 777-300ER, the Airbus A350-1000 fills what the European airframer believes became a gap in the legacy 777’s capacity range left when its U.S. competitor decided to start with a baseline of more than 400 seats for its 777X. Although Boeing’s 777-8X—scheduled for certification in 2022—seats roughly the same number of passengers as the A350-1000, Airbus thinks that the heavier weight of the smaller of the two 777X offerings will leave its biggest A350 XWB in position to grab a sizeable portion of the world market once dominated by the 300ER.
Speaking yesterday at Airbus’s opening show briefing, A350 XWB marketing director Francois Obe highlighted Asia as one of the A350-1000's most important markets. In fact, three of its 11 customers—Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Asiana—hail from the region and account for 43 of the 169 total units on order.
The A350-1000 received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last November, after three flight test examples spent more than 1,600 hours in the air, including 150 hours dedicated to tests performed in an airline-like environment to demonstrate readiness for service entry.
Unfortunately for Airbus, the specially configured business class interiors for launch customer Qatar Airways proved not ready for service in time for planned first delivery by the end of last year. The unique seating configuration Qatar calls its Qsuite features seats that face each other and lie-flat double beds.
Nevertheless, the fact that the A350-1000 shares some 95-percent common part numbers with its smaller sibling, the A350-900, contributed to the smooth certification effort and relatively short flight test program, said Obe. Meanwhile, the -1000 also demonstrated better airfield performance than expected, exceeding takeoff weight predictions by 5.3 metric tons out of Riyadh, 7.2 metric tons out of Newark and 3.8 metric tons out of Johannesburg.
Carrying 366 passengers in a typical three-class configuration, or 40 more than the A350-900 holds, the -1000 features an extended wing trailing edge for lower approach speeds, new six-wheel main landing gear to accommodate its higher weight and, of course, more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines. It can fly to a range of 7,950 nautical miles, allowing it to support routes for emerging markets such as Shanghai-Boston or Paris-Santiago (Chile), as well as more traditional flight segments as Manchester (UK)-Los Angeles or Dubai-Melbourne.