The European aircraft maker’s attempts to produce factory-built production freighters were a long time ago. The last initiative, rolled out at the end of the first decade of this century, was an Airbus A330-200F of which only 30 units were sold. Since then, the Airbus freighter program has remained dormant. Until now, as the manufacturer has come up with plans to build a freighter variant of its successful passenger aircraft, the A350.
Currently, the salespeople of Airbus are doing a lot of door-to-door canvassing. Their aim is to find airlines interested in ordering the projected A350-950 freighter, and to win a launch
customer for this aircraft. If this works out, which should be favored by the continuing highs in global air freight, the European aircraft manufacturer would, for the first time in decades, be
competing directly with its U.S. arch-rival, Boeing, in the segment of factory-built production freighters. For incomprehensible reasons, they have, until now, left this field wide open to
Boeing’s mostly successful models from B757F to B747-8F. At least in the segment of the A350 and its competitor, the B777, there are now signs that Boeing’s monopoly in freighter production will
be partially overcome.
Powered by RR Trent
Regarding the specifications of the future A350-950F, this is what is known so far: The aircraft will most likely combine structural elements of the passenger A350-900 and A350-1000. According to "Aviation Week," Airbus plans to stretch the "A350-950F" by 3.35 meters to 70.10 meters, compared to its A350-900 model. This enlargement will become necessary to integrate a new intermediate segment in the front fuselage equipped with a cargo door. Hence, the new freighter would be a bit longer than its sibling, the A350-900, but 3.70 meters shorter compared to the slightly larger A350-1000. Two Trent XWB-97 Rolls Royce turbines would power the jetliner, similar to the pax variant A-1000. These engines will meet the stricter emissions regulations coming into force in 2028.
Will Boeing hit back?
Concerning the investment, experts speak of 3 billion USD to develop the freighter. The aircraft could uplift 80+ tons. Whether it will match the nonstop range of its sister model A350-900, which Airbus says is 15,860 km, will be clear once the concept design is available and made public by the manufacturer.
If the aircraft has the potential to become a bestseller, remains to be seen. According to market outlooks presented by both Airbus and Boeing, the European producer expects demand for 350 production freighters of this segment within the next 20 years, while the U.S. frame maker speaks of a potential of even 450 freighters.
Meanwhile, Boeing is also projecting a new all-cargo aircraft based on the B777-8F, company sources told the Seattle Times. Stricter environmental regulations could force the manufacturer to stop the production of their B777F and B767F by 2027, at the latest.
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