Assessing the A350 program

News from EADS that it is beginning to consider another Airbus A350 assembly line, or ramping up production more quickly than currently planned, to accommodate increasing demand for the -1000 validates a desire expressed months ago by John Leahy, COO of Customers for Airbus, that he could see more -1000s if he had the capacity to build them.

Delivery slots for the A350 are essentially sold out to 2020. Orders for the -1000 stalled in part because of this, in part because Airbus tweaked the design, in part because Boeing engaged in an effective campaign to cast doubt over the model and in part because Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines and Akbar Al-Baker of Qatar Airways can’t resist negotiating in the press to pressure Airbus to do more.

We believe the -1000, at 350 passengers, is a bit small. It compares with the 365 passengers in the Boeing 777-300ER. We felt from the start that Airbus should have had at least 30 more passengers. But the -1000 threatens the -300ER. Airbus claims the -1000 will have 25% lower trip costs; even Boeing’s own presentations grant the -1000 about 20% lower trip costs.

With Boeing planning a 350-passenger 777-8X and a 406 passenger 777-9X, the need for a larger “A350-1100” becomes acute. Boeing has had the monopoly with the 777-300ER, which will be broken by the -1000. The 9X will retain a monopoly; Airbus, to be fully competitive, needs to match this size.

This will mean a new wing and larger engines, of course, no small investment. There is already a huge gap between the -1000 and the A380. The 777-9X, which will be more efficient than the 747-8 (and which will kill the dying 748), will eat into the A380 demand. So will an A350-1100, but better to do so from within than to see your competitor take the sales.

The A350-900 is moving forward with continued market demand.

This leaves the A350-800.

Boeing engaged in a public campaign to cast doubt on the viability of the -800. Airbus has poorly defended the airplane, and its efforts to switch customers to the -900 further casts doubt. But officials insist the -800 has a future. The question is, when?

The current entry-into-service plan for the family is the -900 in the second half next year (we think it could slip into early 2015); late 2016 for the -800 and 2017 for the -1000. There are only two -800s scheduled for delivery in 2016, with the bulk in 2017, when the -1000 is due for delivery in reasonably sizable numbers.

We’re told from several sources that Airbus is switching customers from the smallest model to larger versions in part to de-risk the program. Schedule on the -900 is already tight and resources are focused on this sub-type. Switching customers relieves pressure on these limited resources.

Another reason, expressed by Leahy: the -900 is more profitable for Airbus (though we are also told reliably Airbus is offering incentives valued at “millions of dollars” to switch).

Leahy also says switching to the -900 gives customers earlier delivery slots. We’re not quite sure how, but this is what he told us.

We believe the increasing demand for the -1000 will prompt Airbus to resequence the EIS, moving the -800 from 2016/2017 to 2018. This will open slots in 2017 for the -1000 and ease integration pressure for Airbus.

But will Airbus keep the -800? Our checks in the market with customers so far suggest the answer is yes. Abandoning the -800 will totally cede the middle-twin-aisle sector to the 787 and we doubt Airbus wants to do this. The A330 will be approaching its 30th year from EIS in 2024, and by then will reach the end of its natural life cycle, if not somewhat before. Airbus needs to come up with a solution to replace the A330 (perhaps that ever-talked about NEO?).

Airbus needs to address (1) the absence of a competitor to the 777-9X, (2) the future of the A350-800, (3) the absence of a new technology competitor to the 787-8 and (4) the successor to the A330.

94 Comments on “Assessing the A350 program

  1. I expect airbus to focus on the A350-1000 for the next few years. The 777-X is still far away (2020-2021 according to EK) and capturing the A340 / 777-200ER long haul replacement market before that seems to be the goal. The 787-10 will be payload range restrited (straight stretch) and the 777-8X probably heavy. An opportunity it seems.

    I sketched an A350-1100 in 2010 after Airbus enlarged the -1000s wing area and asked RR to upgrade the Trent XWB. IMO a further stretch was part of the business case then. IMO the A350-1100, if ever, will be a straigth forward stretch, trading payload-range for capasity, just like the 787-10. Reducing passenger only range to about 7500NM, like a 747-400.

    Btw an A380 is way bigger then a 777-9X. For apple to apple comparison to the 777-9X at 400+ seats, start putting in a full 11 abreast main deck on the A380 and flat sleeper business seats, bars and 30t cargo in a 777-9X..

    • Granted, the A380 is larger than the 777-9x but, as you can agree with, the trend is going towards twins meaning if there is a twin engine aircraft that can transport nearly the same amount of cargo, passengers and have approx the general range of the quad, the choice is the twin. Because while the A380 can carry more pax, it has sub par cargo capabilities. Compared to the 777-300ER, you lose the pax but gain more on the cargo side, which a lot carriers favor.

      • On a HKG-LAX flights a 777-300ER with 320 passengers can carry about 20t cargo. An A380 with 525 passengers 30t cargo.

        Smart guys love to compare the available cargoVolume, skipping payload-range to create perceptions. Often they succeed..

  2. Fascinating commentary as always. I suggest one solution is needed to addess three of your points in the laste paragraph : (2) improvement on the A350-800, (3) and effective competitor to the 787-8 and (4) the successor to the A330.

    Essentially Airbus needs to produce a new plane which could have the same front and rear sections as the A350 as well as the same systems, but with a new and more lightweight mid section – new wing, wingbox, landing gear and engine. These would be come in an A350-800 size version and and a -900 version with ranges that are somewhat similar to the A330-200 and A330-300. This should be in place for when the A330 line runs out around 2020.

  3. Scott, If you were Airbus, what would you prioritize from this list:

    1. a330 replacement (need 787 competitor as a330 fades)
    2. a380-9 (capitalize on B weakness on top end)
    3. a350-1100 (go after 777-9x, albeit at a large expense of wings and engines (747-8 expenditure?)…may need clean sheet as fuselage diameter is too small?)
    4. neo successor

    If it is 2020, I would think that the first priority would be 1, then 3, then 4?

    If you were Boeing, what would you prioritize from this list:

    1. 777-8/9x (done)
    2. 787-10 (likely done…by the way, what is the holdup?)
    3. NSA
    4. Competitor to a380 (BWB? Monster twin?)
    5. Other (sonic cruiser redux? Or an efficient low fuel low speed transport?)

    If it is 2020, I would think 1 and 2 are done, then 3 has to be it?

      • For B, NSA seems the obvious choice. So are you willing to go one step farther and speculate on the size? 150-200 SA, 175-250 SA, 175-250 small TA?

      • Aren’t the grounding and the 781 rather unlinked? It is a completely different (time)horizont and I don’t see much manpower competition either. ( Already surprised how many engineers could dance on a battery box.)

  4. It’s actually interesting to look at list prices (I know nobody pays list, but everybody pays a share of list).

    773 – 315m
    380 – 403m

    28% more expensive. Presuming both discount to a similar level, the margin will remain the same. Even at a 40% discount that’s about 50m USD. At normal financing cost of, say, 3% in the present environment, that adds USD1.5m to the cost of ownership each year, or about USD10 to a ticket if you assume 1 flight/day with 80% load factor in a 500 seat A380.

    • Good point. For the A380, there is 60% more capacity at 28% more cost. Looks like a good value. But, I’m sticking with the theory that the 789 and A359 will take over the market with their smaller size and flexibility. I think the A3510, 777x, and A380 are all chasing the past.

      • I agree that risk minimisation is clearly a driver, and being in the middle of the capacity range has a value all of its own that can not be generally quantified since it depends on the airline in question.

  5. If I was an Airbus CFO I would probably prefer to expand the portfolio using existing proven assets / cashcows. getting the carbon A350 rolling is costing billions upfront.

    Replacing the A330-200, fllling in the 250 seat medium range segment, using existing capabilities / minimizing costs and supply chain risks.

    .. and/or expand the existing NB family into A300/ A310/ 757 / 767-200 / Tu154 territory..

    Anyway I think many agree something inbetween the giant A350 wing and tiny A320 wing seems a medium term requirement. Either on the A32X, A330 or A350..

    • I agree with you. The smart money is on an all new wing for the A332, A357, or A322.

    • Once you have spent that money you are ready to go further.

      Backtracking to old tech only makes sense if you have thoroughly fallen on your face and would need significantly more money to “fix it up” into a smooth process. And probably some indications that this new way of doing things is a cul de sac.

      Pimping old tech only makes sense if you can work from a set of less stringent prerequisites ( 737NG, 748 ).
      Preferable solution tends to be to fold all that has been learned in the past into a new design leaving behind legacies in the process.

      IMHO the 777X offer and the “moving right, moving right” 781 could be a small hint
      that not all is well in barrel land.

      Would the 777X be seen as a third iteration of the 777 ?

      • This is all correct to consider and the CFO will support such actions. Thinks about this Boeing will have take the 737 through 4 generations. Assuming the investment was begun in the 1960s and the final generation is in the 2010s, they did pretty well. Now comes the WBS. If you can use the same config to go 50 years do you really think you’re too worried about what your comp is doing? Technology in the aerospace world is not changing like technology in the substrate world. You design a program to have flaws (weight, drag, and…), flaws that are worked out over ten year cycles. So if the A330 can find its next gen life there are another 20 years there. So expect the A380 to be around for a long time. It works ad it makes good money.

  6. leehamnet :
    This will mean a new wing and larger engines, of course, no small investment. There is already a huge gap between the -1000 and the A380. The 777-9X, which will be more efficient than the 747-8 (and which will kill the dying 748), will eat into the A380 demand. So will an A350-1100, but better to do so from within than to see your competitor take the sales.

    An all new wing for a one trick pony is IMO not the wisest course of action from the point of view of an OEM, since an all new wing for an all new airliner accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the total program development costs. Hence, spreading the development costs on several models is what you ideally want to do.

    An A350-1100 would approach 80m in overall length with no further room for growth.

    Most, if not all successful large commercial aircraft programs have had one common wing – with variances in span – catering to different models.



    So, what then would be the wisest course of action?

    A wing for an A350-1100 should be built with a wing already large enough to support a stretch, or two. However, since an A350-1100 can’t be streched further, the wing should be designed so that it could be used on an all new bigger airframe as well. Hence, it would be significantly bigger than the wing for the 777X in both area and span.

  7. Airbus already have a bigger and not very old wing design- from the A340-5/600. Could that be adapted, removing the outboard engine mountings etc to lighten it as a cost effective measure?

  8. I think Airbus is boxed in. I sincerely doubt that the A351 can be stretched again at economic cost and maintain range capability. Boeing in my view is likely to get slaughtered on the 778, and own the 779 space. Which I presume would work just dandy for them.

    • Some thought the A330 was “boxed in” between the 767 and 777.

      It moved the 767-300/400 and 777-200 versions out of the marketplace and inspired Boeing to come up with the similar size/mission/ configured 787.

      • Well given that the 772 still sold north of 400 units, it wasn’t that bad. In fairness to Boeing, it took until the second decade of the life of the A330 before it began to make the 772 irrelevant.

        • IMHO the A340/A330 family is a prime example for a flexible future proof design that
          could cheaply leverage improvement and changes in the relevant tech fields.
          With slower ETOPS expansion the 4engine version would have held longer dominance, engine improvements helped all members and finetuning the FBW system over time together with small physical changes is a powerfull lever to expand MTOW.

  9. My very personal idea !

    Airbus may build for nearly half the current price, of the A350 a very similar, and just Scaled up A360 !
    One row, or two row** in diameter scale up … every things very proportional, same technology !
    A double stretch may cost 4 Billion from the A351 , one shot, as said, no more development !

    But it may be better to think in :

    A very comfortable 10 rows, and alow cost 11 rows
    A true 50-60 cm diameter scale up without much inprovements, same technology as the A350, may be here for the same years the B777XX is coming out, and certainly for just 8 Billions with no thrills and no much invents !
    And further developments later if needed !

    Evidently Airbus may need 110 000 lbs, engines , just ask RR , not very happy for their recent rejection from the the B777XX program and you may get them in time, with free dévelopment !

    Two row, and a 1 meter diameter scale up, may be more tricky, unless Airbus goes tri 3X 84 000 lbs or more !

    I do not like doble stretch , sorry !

    • This hypothetical aircraft could be done opposite the double stretched A351, but how many planes are you looking to sell in this size category? Sometimes we might forget the actual demand for something that might not exist. Even if the demand for an aircraft this size was enough to go ahead and spent the 8 billions required to make it, this number will still have to be spread among other airplanes with are somewhat close to it. For example, by building the 777X, Boeing is essentially taking demand (whatever little is still has) from the 747-8 because they will both be about close in passenger capacity but with different economics. As Scott says, if Airbus builds something that big, then the A380 suddenly becomes less attractive to “some” airlines than the big jet. So, back to the original question: How many can you sell to recoup the investment made? 8 billions still is a big pile of money. If Boeing is spending that much to make the 777X, I hope they got the numbers they need, it could get messy having two big families of airplanes not making money for you.

    • I have no doubt a further stretch is feasible without a new wing, but will it end up being a 787-10, i.e. not providing the range customers are looking for? Even then though it should be a hyper-efficient plane, and be competitive for anyone not needing the range of the 779x. So maybe my initial thinking is wrong and it could be a larger, more capable version of and worthy successor to the A333?

  10. The article above throws a doubt over the A350-1000XWB, but the question has always been asked since the very beginning.

    It has been clear since long time that the A350-1000XWB is too small. It is only 11% bigger than the A350-900XWB.

    What’s the future of the A350-1000XWB?

    • Well, IAG, Cathay, Emirates and others disagree with you on the A351. Maybe you’re right, but if I were to bet money on it, I know who I’d go with. So I think with at least 110 orders four years before EIS the doubt is pretty much laid to rest.

    • As Scott wrote : Boeing campaigning against the 350 was first very effective against the Mk1 than effective but loosing on the XWB and now seems to evaporate for the -1000.
      And -800 imminent death rumors will probably loose out too.

      creativity has worn thin:
      “A380 too silent” ( 2008 warm up)
      “Global consent that the 350 is the most ugly airliner ever”
      Even Saj keeps low profile these days.

    • Some seem to assume the A350-1000 XWB only goal is to beat / replace the 777-300ER. It’s not.

      It’s goal is to sell as much copies as possible for the highest price/ lowest costs.

      So they talked to all their customers and prospects, did some long term analyses.

      During the last 20 years the market sweetspot seems to have been around 250-300 seats.

      With the market growing (Asia) and fuel prices rising, that seems to have moved up.

      So Airbus decided they think A350-900 and -1000 lenght, range and payload capability is what best fits the market in the next 15-20 years.

      Boeing thought the smaller 787-8 and 787-9 meet that sweet spot. Now they are studying the 787-10 and 777X.

  11. I think you can make the mistake of thinking what’s good for Boeing is necessary for Airbus and vice versa. Obviously each plane they sell is in competition with one from the other team, but it’s not always like for like. The relatively costly 777X program is worthwhile for Boeing because it gives them a plane to put up against the A350-1000, where the biggest numbers are, as well as getting useful extra sales with a bigger again airplane. I think there is much less of a case for an equivalently expensive upgrade to the A350 so it can compete against these bigger planes. That’s because Airbus already has the A350-1000. The incremental win is much less for Airbus.

    As Keesje points out, Airbus has a big gap in wings between the A320 and the A350. I would also say in engines. This is where I think it next needs to concentrate its resources and create an economical version of the A350. Otherwise Airbus will cede the substantial small twin market to Boeing. They intended the A350-800 to do this, but it just isn’t economical enough.

    I don’t think it’s worth an expensive upgrade to the A330 when you can spend the same money on the A350 and take advantage of the improved technology of that plane.

    I would make the relatively modest investment in the A380-900. But as and when, and not at the expense of any other program.

  12. Two recent non official informations from AIRBUS:
    1/ Putting the 1000 ahead of the 800,
    2/ increasing again the production rate of the 330,
    Added to the pressure on 800 customers to go to the 900
    in my opinion, all this is pointing towards a serious updating of the 330!

    Many points go in this way:
    1/ support of M.FERNANDES
    2/ 330 very profitable for AIRBUS and companies
    3/ Has been constantly updated, and does not show its age. In particular its weight is very competitive even with the carbon machines, easy to improve again with new aluminium alloys for which AIRBUS is committed, but nobody knows for which frame
    A 330NG????(joking!)
    4/ If Pratt could bring a larger GTF for WB, a very good NEO could be imagined in a second stage
    A330 MAX?????? (joking again!)
    Strategically, it would answer at a low cost, and with little risk your two last questions:(3) the absence of a new technology competitor to the 787-8 and (4) the successor to the A330.

  13. Wow! Again, the most comprehensive but still short an clear description from Leeham! Congrats!

    Just a few thoughts from my side:

    1. I believe, switching customers from the 350-800 to the -900 only then makes really sense for A if they want to abandon the plane or swith it by some 5 years (not only 2) or want to come out with a better, optimised -800 around 2020. Abandoning it, however would, I think, require a 330-300 NEO quite soon.

    2. You describe in the last paragraph what is on the plate for A. Let us not forget, that they have the 320NEOs with 6 variants to certify in between. I could imagine that around 2019 they might re-engine the 380 in order to make it more competitive. With the same seating as a 400+ 777-9, the 380 could carry some 600+ passengers. So, together with on-going improvements they would for the moment not need to stretch the plane to -900 and would have a very competitive offer!

    3. I would really be interested in knowing how good as compared to the 787-10 a re-engine minimum change 330-300NEO would be. If there is a business case, then they will do it. If it requires more changes, I think it is better to sell the 330 via price and avoid another 767-400, 747-8 or 340-500. I am not sure though, if there is such demand in the 787-8 size once Boeing has delivered all those planes at rather low price. I am afraid that market will be poisoned afterwards – at least it won t justify a new programme for the next 15 years!

  14. “Let us not forget, that they have the 320NEOs with 6 variants to certify in between.”

    VV tries to promote this as a major issue/ risk. Let me tell you this; it aint rockscience.

    The certifications of the A350, A380, A400M, bigger wings & engines on the A340, those are huge, demanding, risky.

    New engines, winglets, lenghts, cabins, pretty straight forward. The Sharklets where recently certified for “6” A320 types without anyone noticing. As were many cockpit, cabin and system upgrades. Airbus already certified 3 engines on the 4 A320 subtypes. The CFM56-5, V2500 and PW6000.. The recent more radical A330 conversion, any disasters? Of course it’s a lot of work and takes some time, but lets not overdramatize.

    • keesje,

      Three A350XWBs and six A320neo to certify between 2014 and 2017? I can’t see it happening.

      • A320 Sharklet Certification for V2500 and CFM56 done in 600 flight hours (total, not for each engine type) and in 10 months. I don’t expect that the NEO certification takes considerable more time. For each engine type eventually 500hrs on the 320 initially (which would be in the order of maghnitude of the A318 PW6000) to gain experience and less for A319/321.
        Airbus has now in parallel the XWB Engine tests, the Sharklet campaign and the A400M military flight test campaign on the table and they manage it as well. In my opinion, flight testing won’t be a bottleneck. Maybe VV comes up with some hard facts?

      • But funnily enough, that’s just what Airbus is planning. So where exactly do you see the bottleneck?

    • You ever been through one these? You are talking about a program that has been working for more than 30 years with minor changes for performance improvements. Now, a wing change, coupled with system changes. Remodel a 30+ year old house and tell me if you’re ever completely finished. And, that stay on the ground.

  15. We need to see whether Airbus has hit the target on the A350-900. If it takes them as much time as it took to get the A330-340 right the ship will have sailed. The -800 will always be a “me too”, and again people are saying the -1000 needs to expand. When will it ever be right? First no one trusted the design, then not enough power, now not big enough? The -900 is really a boxed in niche that will find the same fate as the -200ER, too heavy for the shorter routes and sometimes too big for the development routes. The -8, -9, and -10 are too versatile for the airlines to pass up. 777-8 might become the unwanted stepchild but the -9 will fit the growth the industry needs with the cargo capacity. The 380-800, well the time has come to call an end to another niche program. I think when Tai said they were having trouble justifying the capacity, you get a sense of the penalty an airline pays if the demand is not there. John better sell as many slots as possible quickly because he knows when the first sales of the 777-9 are announced his window for the -1000 will be closing quickly. Just as the first announcements of the -10 will begin to eat away at the -900 traction. But the big but is, will Boeing make the 787 bulletproof enough to get to the intro of the -9?

    • come on, the 777-9 is an evasive maneuver already. The 77W market is being given up already by B. If a 350-1100 comes, the 777-9 is in a mini niche, where it will wrestle the 747-8i.

      The 350 is perfect to skim the market. Remember, it was the same with the 777: first 200, then 200ER with the bigger, medium range 300, then long range 300ER.

      • And you don’t think the entire XWB program was not an evasive move. A sales of 100 odd frames should drive a competitor to do something that is not supported by customer demand? An a/c program is not a cheap development effort and knowing what hits a sweet spot means doing some work. Look at the number of frames Boeing has sold of the 777 family, and then tell me why you would muddy the warters with a new a/c that impacts your own product? Do an intro of a replacement of the -300ER two years too soon and you lose 100s of -300 ER sales. Why do that?

    • The A350-1000 seems just right at this moment.

      ANA, JAL, UA, SQ and QR told Boeing.

      CX and BA told them before but Boeing knew better.

      Boeing is now scrambling to push a 787-10 and 777X at the same time to stop the bleeding.

      IMO the right moment to launch the 777X and 787-10 is the Paris Airshow 2011.

      I told them 2 years 7 months 1 day 22 hours ago 😉

      • When was the perfect time to replace the A330-200 and 300? I think that was the time when Airbus was laughing at Boeing for introducing the 787? And they were working to redefine the A350. So maybe you should have informed Airbus to get better at reading the tea leafs from their customers.

      • l7room :
        When was the perfect time to replace the A330-200 and 300? I think that was the time when Airbus was laughing at Boeing for introducing the 787?

        Don’t forget the 787 was a reaction to what the A330 was doing to 767 sales. Up they came with the 787, and Airbus with the A350, and in the same fashion it’s likely going to continue until some other player enters the widebody market.

        Airbus was never laughing at the 787, by the way. They were trying to downplay its threat in the same way that Boeing has been trying to downplay the A350XWB poses to them. The main difference being that you choose to believe Boeing’s downplaying tactis, not Airbus’ while really you should not believe either.
        To me it also seems Airbus got things pretty right with the A330 and A350: They sold way more A330 after the 787 was launched (and delayed) than they did before, and the way they sized the A350 ensured that they could a) attack the 777 (driving Boeing into a costly revamp of the type) and b) get into customer accounts that had already bought the 787. It’s now going to be up to Boeing again to play catch-up on the A350-1000 and -900, as they try to do with the 787-10 and 777-8X/9X. (And this game of alternating catch-up will continue for a while yet.)

    • You are aware of the comparative order numbers? Boeing 772ER = 429, Airbus 359 = 414. I would submit that if that’s boxed in, it’s a very happy box for Airbus.

      • And you say that to say what? That the -900 has done well to replace the -200ER, which is my point. Expanding the market is the challenge.

      • l7room :
        And you say that to say what? That the -900 has done well to replace the -200ER, which is my point. Expanding the market is the challenge.

        They’ve sold almost as many A350-900s before first flight as Boeing sold 777-200ERs in the last 22 years. I think they can be quite confident in finding just a few more -900 sales between now and the last A350 rolling off the line…

  16. I7Room !
    You are trying to be a very good PR for Boeing !
    Very good resume and an interesting concentrated of the Randy point of wiew !

    The subjet here is A350, and eventually his more direct competitor, the B777XX !
    Whose B777-9 just began to inflate power requirements to 103 000 lbs in a a few weeks lapse, just imagine what is coming up in the next few months, and may be in several years !

    Be more careful through your assertions !

    • No I’m not. The decisions made by both Airbus and Boeing are driven by customer demand and not by the comments of people not ordering a/c. You do what makes the most profitability for your company. You do not kill a program because your competition has new a widget. Understanding your competition and their market position drives moves to places where others are not and then you leverage those positions to make all you can before moving again. The -300ER sold MUCH better than anyone thought, so why intrdouce an a/c that kills its market potential? Had Boeing not missed the 787 program so badly the A330 program would have died on the vine. Airbus had put so many messages out there about their wide body program that the market was lost. Boeing missed and Airbus picked up the pieces, not becuase of a strategy but because of a stupid competitive move. Had Airbus been smart they would have developed the next gen wide body sooner and never introduced the A380. Why, becuase the market had requested an alternative sooner. Think about it, the A350s would have eaten up the 777 sales before the -200ER or the 300ER had a chance to get off the ground. Or, if they had told the market that the improvements planned for the A330 program would have provided 10-15% fuel improvement, the market would have increased for the program naturally. The A330 and 340 programs needed replacing and the value to Airbus would have been far more significant. That didn’t happen because of the 4 is better than 2 story. I’m a market analyst and a strategy guy, so I care more about positioning than who is right or wrong. I’m looking for the effective strategy.

      • large twins are effective by grace of ETOPS.
        Airbus would never have been allowed to push ETOPS in the way Boeing was forced
        but able to coopt the FAA into. Compare to the A300/310 and 767 initial ETOPS spiel.
        Just for groundbreaking that market the A340-500 and -600 might have been a worthwhile investment.

  17. While an a350-1100 might not have been planned originally by Airbus the a350-1000 is now on it’s 3rd? incarnation. After spending so much more time and money on the current version than they originally planned I would be surprised if a stretch of the “1000” isn’t already in the plans, just waiting for a business case. Stretching the “1000” would also free up resourses for an a330 NEO or replacement, which is also important to Airbus. Without the a350-1100 Airbus might find they need to do the a360 to fill the space, but a bigger plane would be a heavier one, and I doubt if it would have the economics of the a350-1100, it would just have more range, and use up engineering resourses needed elsewhere. In the end an a3511 would do to the 779 what the a333 did to the 772, which is why I am sceptical of the 777X program.

  18. Actually, gotta lay off the Airbus Kool-Aid, and now agree with I7Room. Airbus is clearly doomed. They will never manage the certification of the NEO, the A350 is doomed to be a failure, and the A380 is the millstone that will drag them down the pond. Better stock up on Boeing shares. 🙂

    • Your right, of course, Airbus have been on a hopeless downhill slide for 25 years now, it can’t last much longer:-)

  19. Lets face it, nobody is perfect!

    B erred and let Airbus steal a march with the a320neo. B is competitive, but certainly not dominant in the 150-200 market. Edge to A?

    A erred with the 340 and the 777 is clearly dominant in the 350-400 market. Monopoly to B.

    B erred in execution of the 787 (too many technologic leaps at once?) allowing A to compete in the future in the 300 to 350 market and profit in the 250-300 market with the a330. Early edge to A, now edge to B until 350 enters the market. Then it will be interesting to see if the 350-900 and 1000 can compete with the 787-9, 10, 777-8ul, and 9x. Tossup? Edge to B on the lower end as the a330 slowly dies out?

    A erred in execution of the 380 (and likely demand forecast?) as did B with the 747-8i. A will produce some passenger 380s, B will produce some 747-8fs. Neither looks too smart here (so far).

    • And you have certainly said it better than me. It happens to both companies and both take advantage of the others missteps. Does not make either better than the other. Thanks Mike for saying it so well.

  20. Well said Mike !

    Interesting moves ahead !
    First options and moves from Airbus to be seen at Le Bourget … if it ever happens …
    A lot of choices and priorities … all uneasy to sort out !

    Worst case … to make nothing at this stage !

  21. With all the doom and gloom on Airbus’s future, it feels like I’ve taken a time machine back to somewhere between 2005-most of 2007.

  22. Personally, I feel like Airbus will leave the 777-9X alone and fight it as best as it can with the A350-1000, that solves #1. I think #3&4 are almost essentially the same, so I see a probable re-engine of the A330, as for the A350-800, it’s not going anywhere, though I can see it being pushed back for the -1000.
    Though Airbus could cancel the programme now, since according to the very balanced and unbiased Saj Ahmad(LOL), there were rumours that there was a ME airline who was threatening Airbus to cancel their entire A350 order if the -800 was canned. I’m guessing that customer was QR and since they seemed to have switched with their order to -900s with minimum fuss, Airbus can cancel the programme now

  23. I just think the A358 may not be cancelled , just postponed !

    Please, wait the necessary time to get better weight, frome the frame progress, lighter engines than the cumbersome (7300 Kg 84 000 lbs) RR TXWB, to go ahead , may be a more adequate wing too, one of these days !

    The very long range A358, is still a niche option , quite for free for Airbus, with paper low MTOW if necessary !

    A lot of lighter MTOW may be offered, and I think Airbus is on this way !

    A350 is a new and living serie, never say never, please !

    • Therefore I would resist to build the A350-1000 first. Weight savings also suits the -1000. With the latest engine data Airbus might not build a -1000 but instead a -1050. More distance to -900 and closer to 9X.

  24. “Then it will be interesting to see if the 350-900 and 1000 can compete with the 787-9, 10, 777-8ul, and 9x. Tossup? Edge to B on the lower end as the a330 slowly dies out?”

    Mike, perhaps we should reconnect to the fact the A350 have 650 orders and nearly flies, while the 787-10, 777-9x and 777-ul have not even been launched! Let alone ordered or build!

    The assumption those paper aircraft will surely put Airbus in a corner (from 2020?), what is it based on?

    Airbus is silently pushing out 8-10 300 seaters every month. While 777-200ER/LR deliveries dried up years ago and the 787-9 is delayed for 4 years. In the bigger twin segment the 773ER ruled, but Airbus captured big 777 operators SQ, AF/KL, UA, EK, BA, CX and some others are close. While enjoying a VLA near monopoly and 60% NB market leadership.

    That’s todays reality.

    • Keesje- which was my point on why companies have strategies that leverage a program for as long as possible. Why should Airbus develop something, or say something that effects short term sales? But here is the issue for next gen A330 opportunities, the 787 has outsold all of the A350 programs at this point and time. Boeing has taken position to attack the largest and fastest growing segments (count the total A330s and the 787 sales) compare that to the 777-200ER space. In your own words, who went to the market’s sweet spot and offered three versions of frames for the space? Airbus is riding the -900 and the -1000 for future growth while it is sending mixed messages for its A330 replacement. So sell 1000 of the two configs, but there are already almost 2000 frames available for Boeing with three configs. Which segment do you really think has the long term potential of growing? If Boeing sells 500 777-9X and 300 777-8LRs, plus 2000 in the 8, 9, and 10 space who really won? The A350 is boxed in and when it makes its next move Boeing will already have established a beach head. And, they will be flying all three by the time Airbus does a thing with the -800. If I were Boeing, I might have made you think I was concerned about the 777-300ER so Airbus spent time attacking the wrong program. Maybe in 2011 they saw the writing on the wall and said things to drive Airbus up in the space. The move drove Airbus to all but kill publically the -800. They even offered their customers incentive to move away from the -800. Again add the sales up and then look at what the +375 seat world is projected to be, and then say again Airbus got it right. Sweet spots are where an air framer wants to invest and if you can get volume, well there is the winner. But let’s see how the A350 comes to market, if its good then maybe they can move faster to really play where the sales will come. Point to point efficiently will be the only way European and US airlines will be able to compete against the big plane flying middle east airlines. Europe cuts access to the Middle East airlines but is forming stronger and broader alliances with US carriers so they can own point to point. A 275 seat frame is a much better fit. They are developing the business case for a larger fleet of smaller wide bodies. Keep watching and you will see this play out in the next 10-15 years.

      • I just have not met anybody who flies transatlantic via Dubai… So what alliance between Us and European airlines do you need to combat against middle east airlines?

  25. Well Keesje, I think it’s best to look at 2017-18 time frame. By then, it’s likely the a330 backlog will be much reduced (currently 2 years but only 2 sales this year). By then, the 787 will be at 10 moving to 14/m. By end of 2018, The a350 program will be at 10/m. The 777 will likely be around 8/m as the backlog is now near 4 years with 15 new orders this year.
    The issue I see is that in 2017-2018, Boeing can produce 22 wide bodies a month and Airbus 10/month (excluding the 747-8 and a380 which are more or less a low volume

    Granted, the 787-10 and 777-8,9x are still hypothetical and have risk. On the other hand, the 350-8, 9, and 10 have yet to fly and also face varying degrees of risk.

    I’m not a fanboy for one company or the other. These comments are just what I surmise from what is published or discussed. My 2cents!

    • ~260 obviously is a backlog of more than 2 years.
      Sales this year are ~22. Airbus contemplating to go
      beyond 10 A330 per month does not really jibe with
      “dried up sales”.
      IMHO we see a slump similar to the pre NEO A320 slump in sales.

      2017 might see 10 A350, 11 A330, 4 A380 verus
      1 748, 10 787, 8 777.
      A: 25 :: B: 19

      • Are the airlines buying them or leasing them from Airbus? SQ leased there A330 fleet and if that is a trend Airbus could end up with quite a few frames looking for homes with the same operating profiles. That will impact the second hand market values.

      • I make sales this year 23? China 18 plus THY 5? I seriously doubt we see more than 3xA380/month in 2017, and probably ever.

  26. Mike, the 777 today has 347 unfilled orders, according to Boeings webside. If Boeing is producing 96 777s a year (8 a month) today, they are ready by the end of 2016. According to EK the 777X will be ready in 2020-21. I’m not sure how good 2017-2018 will be for the 777, and why its best to look there. By that time the A350 is in full production and who wants to take those 8 777-300ERs a month with also the 777x available 3 years later? What about 3-4 a month.

    • Boeing won’t need them because the 3 787 variants will fill in the current 777 sales shortfall.

  27. The best thing about this blog is the high entertainment value provided by the readers comments. All the self proclaimed experts expounding on things they know so little about really makes my day, every day. Please keep it up!!!!

  28. l7room :
    And you say that to say what? That the -900 has done well to replace the -200ER, which is my point. Expanding the market is the challenge.

    I am saying that to make the point that your idea that the A359 is ‘boxed in’ is ludicrous, with all due respect. It needs another 15 sales to match 772ER LIFETIME sales before service entry. By the time the A359 is done selling it will have sold at least 1,000 copies in my view. If that’s a problem, Airbus will be congratulating themselves for having it.

  29. l7room :
    Strengthening of the wing.

    I think we can all agree that strengthening the wing and changing the wing are two rather different things. Since all A320s have the same wing, they presumably only need to strengthen it once (and they may well have done the design work already when they did the strengthening for the sharklets).

    So again, where’s the issue?

  30. I think it has been established that Boeing need to sell around 1400 787s just to break even on that programme, and currently they have sold less than 900. Now that they are being squeezed by both the A330 from below (and may continue to be squeezed by the A330 if a NEO version becomes available), and the A350 from above, that is beginning to look like a daunting total – how many have been sold in the last three years since the initial discount-fuelled frenzy died down? I’m sure they’ll get there in the end -but if that’s just to break even, what are the chances of selling enough to make the programme worthwhile for shareholders?

  31. I think the A350-900 and -1000 are right in the market sweetspot, 300-350 seat long haul with good cargo load. Its what Asia needs.

    Boeing now rushing in the undefined 787-10 and 777-8X at the same time is a sign they underestimated the fact the 777-200ER became uneconomical much earlier then hoped, the 787-9 takes much longer then hoped and the continually enhanced A330-300 keep flooding the market much longer then hoped.

    I still think an A330 with GENX mkII engines, new interiors, OEW reductions, sharklets, A350 cockpit enhancements and a 10 a month production rate quickly could create new unexpected havoc in the 300 seat medium/long range markets..

    • If the neo version is ever launched, you’ll definitely deserve some appreciation for your persistence and believe in this idea! I’m very curious whether the neo program will ever be launched and would love to see the fall-out. What length for the development program would you expect? And what will be the best chess moves for new narrow body programs?

    • uiui, that is quite much for then still having an “old” plane. I guess, if it is a cheap minimum-change, similar to the 320neo, it might be an idea. As soon as you start with cockpit enhancements, extensive works on wings etc it is over. That concept was not viable ten years ago (350-Mk1) and I don t see why it should be now.

  32. Uwe and Keesje,

    The 330 backlog including freighters is 279 (A website). At 11/m that is 242 over 2 years. At 10/m that is 220 over 2 years. So 2-2 1/2 years back log. The 777 backlog is 347 (wiki) through April. The B website is a little unclear, but it appears that between 15 to 30 new 777s have been ordered this year. The backlog starting now at 100/year built would end around early-2017 (3.5 years). This presumes no further 777 orders.

    I would hypothesize the a330 output will drop… and so will the 777 output. It is just that the a330 output will drop sooner as the 787 ramp up is occurring now whereas the a350 ramp up wont occur for 3 to 5 years (assuming 2014 first delivery and slow ramp up to10/m by end of 2018 (as they have stated is their plan). This likely won’t affect the 777 market for airlines that need lift now thru 2017-9. Most of the a350s that A will produce in 2015-2019 will be the 900 variant…maybe a handful of the 1000 as it will just be certifying during that time (2017).

    Put another way, the total 787 output by end 2017 will be around (guesstimate) 600 aircraft (50 2012 70 2013 120 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. This also presumes B stops at 10 when there are indications that they will go to 14/m. There will likely be 787 slots opening up during that time for new customers and the 787-10. The 350 production will be roughly 228 presuming 2014 24, 2015 48, 2016 72, 2017 84.

    To turn around your question, why buy an a330 when in 3-5 years you can get a 787 that is 15-20% more fuel efficient, especially when fuel costs are increasing at a high rate and making a higher percentage of operating costs? ;0)

    • 1) Price. Since Boeing is presumably no longer discounting the 787 as much as they used to, the A330 would be a lot cheaper, bringing down cost of ownership.
      2) Availability. In your scenario, you won’t get a new 787 in large numbers until about 2019. An A330 could be earning you revenue for four years at that point.
      3) I don’t see fuel prices continuing their spiralling increases of the last years. Don’t see them coming down much either, but the risk element of fuel is probably less now than it was two years ago.

  33. I don’t get all this doom and gloom about being “boxed in”. The A330 has had a fantastic run despite being “boxed in” by the 767 and the 777. There’s also the positive that whatever improvement A does to the A350, B is left having to engineer improvements on two different lines of product to keep up with their competition, be it an improvement in engine performance or structural weight etc.

  34. This place is just borderline, all black and white all the time. I work with a woman that suffers from this, it can only be great or catastrophy.

    I think both OEMs will do great over the next 20 years.

    Next B program should be the NSA, IMO the MAX is one iteration too much.

  35. Qatar must need lift in the 330-787 capacity soon and is willing to take the trade off. I am sure they have thought the numbers out.

    Let’s make some assumptions and follow them out:
    1. Airlines buy planes to make money…lately, many have trouble staying profitable so it is likely margins are narrow.
    2. Fuel costs have gone from 15 % cost of flying to 40 to 50% cost of flying.
    3. Airlines logically will try to maximize income and cut costs.

    I would say that it’s likely the optimized craft that best fit the route network traffic of each airline will be purchased. Usually the optimized craft will have the latest technology optimized for its capacity and range.

    1. Older craft will have difficulty selling in large numbers if the newer craft is available. The 787-8 and 9 are newer and more efficient than the 330 series. The 330 can be discounted, delivered earlier etc, but eventually it will need to be replaced by a newer generation craft. It’s still a good plane, but 15% (now) and wig future 787 improvements in the future …

    The a350-9 appears to be an optimized craft, the 8 is less so. I expect that airlines who are looking for planes of that capacity and range will buy a lot of them. The 1000 looks interesting to many airlines and might become a good seller.

    The airlines will choose whether jets with 365 seats or 407 seats ( or square footage if you prefer) is what they want.

    Is the 777-9x optimized? Likely not, but it gets the lions share of the improvements a new y3 would get and it’s possible it will be very competitive for its capacity and range.

    I suspect there will be more split buys in the future with the split going to be 787-8,9,10s + 350-9 and probably 10s, and 777-9s. There is so much choice now that the airlines can micro purchase capacity and range to match their networks and expansion/contraction plans. It may also mean that the 320/737 carriers may begin to split their orders as the 320 is better on longer sectors and the 737 on shorter sectors. The benefits of single fleets may be reduced by the new maintenance models (power by the hour, airlines providing maintenance to several fleets etc).

    It’s sort of like selecting players for a football/soccer team…each has different capabilities and slots.

    My 2cents again…

    • The key word is ‘available’. At present the 787 is not available to a new customer. What must be galling to Boeing is that they could have sold the slots they currently use to produce extremely underpriced early-order frames for much more money. But that’s life if you buy your fasteners at Home Depot, I guess. 🙂

  36. A question:
    Is there still a chance that the A350 is going to be equipped with GEnx or EngineAlliance GP7200 engines (or derivatives thereof) ? I recently read an article about Pratt&Whitney investigating whether the A350XWB could be equipped with their GTF engines. This may put pressure on GE to offer the GEnx or let EngineAlliance offer the GP7200 for the A350XWB.

    This could be important for some airlines. For example: Air France and KLM have traditionally been very loyal GE customers, so it is quite a change if they decide to order A350s with RR engines. Aircraft maintenance and aftermarket services are important to AF-KLM, so I can imagine them having difficulties with RR engines.


    • Pratt was toying with the idea of getting a GP7200 derivative on the A350 in its early days, but GE didn’t commit. Airbus refused the GEnx citing they wanted an engine that is one step ahead of it, and they got RR to do one, the Trent XWB. GE has since lost any interest in the A350 program and with the continued exclusivity on the 777, I don’t see them coming back with a new offering. It will be one too many engines in their portfolio. By the end of the decade, they will have the CF6, GEnx, GE9X, (and GE90 for 777Fs?), the partnership in CFM for the LEAP, and if the A380 program continues as it is, the EA GP7200.

      Pratt’s obviously keen on getting back in the widebody engine business with the new GTF technology. But they stated that 100k lbf thrust class was too big a jump from what they already have. In any case, the frames that need such an engine are locked in exclusivity with either GE or RR and it leaves them with only the 787 and the A350-800/900 to aim for over the next decade or so. The latter is the lower risk option since they have to contend with only one other engine maker and the market will be less diluted –> recover development costs faster. Also, if Airbus decides to go for an A380 re-engine and/or stretch, Pratt can produce a minimum effort derivative for it, since a highly optimised engine for the A350-800/900 will have the similar thrust required.

      • As you say and as the Bloomberg article states, Pratt is indeed very keen on getting back into the widebody business, with their GTF technology. This technology is very interesting. Not only for regional jets (Embraer has recently chosen the GTF engines for their future E-Jets, ditching GE) but ultimately also for widebodies.

        Pratt’s best chances are with Airbus, as Boeing appears to be very intimate with GE. I guess that airlines like choice and don’t really like these “engine exclusivity” deals. Airbus could boost the attractiveness of the A350XWB platform, if it would allow customers to have a choice with regard to engines. Customers now only have one choice, the RR Trent XWB. The question mark is how quickly Pratt could offer a GTF engine (PW1095G, PW10100G ?) in the 100k lbs thrust range. Perhaps by 2018 or 2019 ? But that could be too late, as the A350XWB will be entering service in 2014 or 2015.

  37. GE is a big investor in the 777. They have a contract with Boeing on the use of engines more then 80klbs on other aircraft. So they don’t want to offer an engine for the competing A350-1000. Airbus wants engines that cover the entire A350 range.

    • “Airbus wants engines that cover the entire A350 range.”

      That is no longer the case since the -1000 is now locked in exclusivity with RR. Airbus has stated they welcome a second option but for the -800/900 variants only.

      • I know. But I don’t know the duration of the exclusivity deal (time, sales) or the conditions under which it can be ended (e.g. compensation).

        Airbus has a policy of offering multiple engines on their aircraft, so I guess they build in some reasonable limitations.

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  39. Guys, just talking of how “successful” or not the 350-1000 is, please consider that the air up there is extremely thin. The 350-1000 has already more than 100 orders 4 years before EIS.
    That is more than 340-200, -500, -600, 767-400, 747-300, -8, -SP but also 777-200, 200-LR and -300 gained in total!

  40. 777-9x (…) but it gets the lions share of the improvements a new y3 would get

    Hmm, reminds me of what B said about the 747-8

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