Airbus has received approval from its shareholders, EADS and BAE Systems to begin making firm commercial offers to launch customers for two new members of its wide-body Family. The new sisterships to the A330s, called “A350” models, respond to the market demand foreseen by Airbus customers, many of whom have expressed their interest in these new models and contributed to their definition.

Due to enter service in the first half of 2010, the A350 models will complement the existing Airbus A330 and A340 product line. Offering a maximum of operational commonality with the current A330/A340 line – including Common Type Rating with the A330 -, they complement the current A330-200 and –300 line, offering extended range in these seating categories.

“The long range market is becoming more segmented in terms of size and range. Airbus has listened to its customers, who were interested in the medium size category with greater range to complement their current Airbus wide-body Families. As a result of this demand, we are now pleased to offer the A350, which, in addition to its intrinsic characteristics, is in the unique position of being a full member of a comprehensive airliner family, hence benefiting from an unmatched level of commonality”, said Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard on the occasion of the announcement. “We are now in the unique position to satisfy all airlines’ demands in the long range sector, from the 250 seater to the high capacity A380."

The market for aircraft in the 250-300 seat category is estimated at some 3,100 new aircraft over the next 20 years, of which Airbus expects to get at least 50 per cent.

The A350 will be offered in two versions. The A350-800 will typically seat 245 passengers in a long range three class configuration and have a range in excess of 8,600 nm / 15,900 km) providing ultra long range capability in this “medium size” seating category, and offering the lowest seat mile costs for this less dense long range market. Seating 285 passengers in a similar configuration, the A350-900 will have a range of more than 7,500 nm / 13,900 km, allowing operators to benefit from exceptionally low unit costs in the most competitive mainstream markets.

The A350 models will benefit from technologies, materials and manufacturing processes used on the A380, and will draw from composite wing design and Airbus manufacturing know-how. Although eligible for a choice of engines, the initial A350s will be powered by two new generation General Electric engines which, thanks to new technologies, will generate a double-digit improvement in fuel efficiency.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.

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With the A330/A340 already commanding market leadership in the 240-380 seat category and the A380 dominating the market for larger aircraft, the A350-800 and A350-900 complement and enhance the flexibility offered across the Airbus long-range families.

The A350 will typically carry 245-285 passengers over distances of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km), providing airlines with longer range versions of the A330, which already accounts for over 60% of this market sector and with which the A350 will share a single type rating for pilots. This means that pilots already qualified to fly the A330 will be able to switch to the A350 with no additional training. As the same commonality benefits also apply to maintenance and cabin crews, airlines can easily minimise crew costs and maximise operational flexibility.

The A350-800 offers airlines a range of up to 8,600 nm (15,900 km) in a three-class, 245 seat layout and under-floor space for six 96 inch x 125 inch (244 centimetre x 317 centimetre) cargo pallets (after provision for passenger baggage). In the congested airspace environment the A350-800 is optimised to become the smallest economically viable aircraft for long-range commercial operations. The extra revenue generation it offers provides operators with more value than the marginally lower trip cost of a smaller capacity type.

The A350-900 offers a range of up to 7,500 nm (13,900 km) with 285 seats in a three-class configuration. The A350-900 has the lowest seat-mile cost of any like-sized airliner, making it attractive to A330-200 operators, who can easily add the higher capacity aircraft to their fleet and to airlines seeking a substantially more economic replacement for heavier, older twin aisle aircraft. The A350-900 is suitable on routes between all major European and US cities, between all major city pairs within the Asia/Pacific region and between emerging Middle East hubs and all major European, African and many Asian cities.

These performance capabilities will be achieved thanks to the introduction of substantial technical and manufacturing innovations, notably those developed and implemented on the A380. Airbus’ proven expertise in the development and application of composites and innovative new materials will be used to incorporate a high percentage of lightweight structural materials, such as Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and aluminium-lithium alloys. For example, the A350 wing will be largely manufactured using CFRP. Furthermore, the A350 wing will deliver exceptional low and high-speed efficiency thanks to cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques and the integration of ‘droop nose’ technology from the A380.

Improved manufacturing and assembly techniques, pioneered on other aircraft in the Airbus Family, such as the A318 and the A380, will provide additional weight reduction, while adding structural durability and decreasing maintenance costs. The A350 will follow the same production philosophy as the rest of the Airbus Family, with final assembly taking place in Toulouse. It will, therefore, benefit from techniques already successfully introduced on all other Airbus aircraft.

The A350 will further enhance Airbus’ reputation for providing the most comfortable long-range cabins in the sky, featuring solid-state lighting technology to enable maximum customisation and passenger comfort, and full compatibility with the latest generation In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems. Cabin services will be controlled through the unique Airbus Cabin Intercommunication Data System (CIDS). Both versions of the aircraft may be fitted with spacious crew rest facilities for up to two pilots and eight cabin crew, nacilities which have already proved successful on A340-500/-600 aircraft currently in service.

The launch engines for the A350 will be the new generation General Electric GEnx 72A1. Paired with the new nacelle and using a pylof design initially developed for the A380, the A350 will deliver the exceptional level of fuel economy necessary for efficient medium-capacity long-range operation.