The Airbus A350 XWB is a family of long-range, twin-engine wide-body jet airliners developed by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
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The A350 is the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. Its variants seat 280 to 366 passengers in typical three-class seating layouts. The A350 is positioned to succeed the A330 and A340, and compete with Boeing's 787 and 777.
The A350 was originally conceived in 2004, pairing the A330's fuselage with new aerodynamics features and engines. In 2006, Airbus redesigned the aircraft in response to criticism from several major prospective customers, renamed it the A350 XWB (extra wide body). Development costs are projected to be €12 billion (US$15 billion or £10 billion). As of January 2015, Airbus had received orders for 780 aircraft from 40 customers around the globe. The prototype A350 first flew on 14 June 2013 from Toulouse, France. Type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency was received in September 2014 and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration two months later. On 15 January 2015, the A350 entered service with Qatar Airways, the type's launch customer.
Airbus initially rejected Boeing's claim that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner would be a serious threat to the Airbus A330, stating that the 787 was just a reaction to the A330, and that no response was needed. When airlines pushed Airbus to provide a competitor, Airbus initially proposed the A330-200Lite, a derivative of the A330 featuring improved aerodynamics and engines similar to those on the 787. The company planned to announce this version at the 2004 Farnborough Airshow, but did not proceed.
On 16 September 2004, then-Airbus president and CEO Noël Forgeard confirmed the consideration of a new project during a private meeting with prospective customers. Forgeard did not give a project name, and he did not state whether it would be an entirely new design or a modification of an existing product. The airlines were not satisfied, and Airbus committed €4 billion to a new airliner design. The original version of the A350 superficially resembled the A330 due to its common fuselage cross-section and assembly. A new wing, engines and a horizontal stabiliser were to be coupled with new composite materials and production methods applied to the fuselage to make the A350 an almost all-new aircraft. On 10 December 2004, the boards of EADS and BAE Systems, then the shareholders of Airbus, gave Airbus an "authorisation to offer (ATO)", and formally named it the A350.
On 13 June 2005 at the Paris Air Show, Middle Eastern carrier Qatar Airways announced that they had placed an order for 60 A350s. In September 2006 the airline signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric to launch the GEnx-1A-72 for the aircraft. Emirates sought a more improved design and decided against ordering the initial version of the A350.
On 6 October 2005, the programme's industrial launch was announced with an estimated development cost of around €3.5 billion. The A350 was initially planned to be a 250- to 300-seat twin-engine wide-body aircraft derived from the existing A330's design. Under this plan, the A350 would have modified wings and new engines, while sharing the A330's fuselage cross-section. As a result of a controversial design, the fuselage was to consist primarily of aluminium-lithium, rather than the carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) fuselage on the 787. It was to see entry in two versions: the A350-800 capable of flying 8,800 nmi (16,300 km) with typical passenger capacity of 253 in three-class configuration and the 300-seat (3-class) A350-900 with 7,500 nmi (13,900 km) range. It was designed to be a direct competitor to the 787-9, and 777-200ER.
The A350 was publically criticised by two of Airbus' largest customers, International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). On 28 March 2006, ILFC President Steven F. Udvar-Hazy urged Airbus to pursue a clean-sheet design, or risk losing market share to Boeing, branding Airbus's strategy as "a Band-aid reaction to the 787", a sentiment echoed by GECAS president Henry Hubschman. In April 2006, while reviewing bids for the 787 and A350, CEO of Singapore Airlines (SIA) Chew Choon Seng, commented that: "Having gone through the trouble of designing a new wing, tail, cockpit... [Airbus] should have gone the whole hog and designed a new fuselage." Airbus responded by stating they were considering A350 improvements to satisfy customer demands, Airbus's then-CEO Gustav Humbert stated that: "Our strategy isn't driven by the needs of the next one or two campaigns, but rather by a long-term view of the market and our ability to deliver on our promises." As major airlines such as Qantas and Singapore Airlines selected the 787 over the A350, Humbert tasked an engineering team to produce new alternative designs; one such proposal, known internally as "1d", formed the basis of the A350 redesign.
In June 2011, the A350-900 was scheduled to enter service in the first half of 2014, with the −800 to enter service in mid-2016, and the −1000 in 2017. In July 2012, Airbus delayed the −900's introduction by three months into the second half of 2014. The first A350-1000 final assembly will begin in early 2016, for a first flight in the second half of the same year and entry into service in mid-2017.
The first delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways took place on 22 December 2014. The first commercial flight was made on 15 January 2015 between Doha and Frankfurt.
The production rate should rise from three aircraft per month in early 2015 to five at the end of 2015, and should ramp to ten aircraft per month by 2018. 17 planes should be delivered in 2015, and the initial dispatch reliability is 98%.
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