SINGAPORE - Airbus showed off its new wide-body A350 on Monday ahead of Asia's biggest airshow, signaling that the jet's delivery schedule is on track and stepping up its battle with Boeing for the lucrative long-haul market.The European plane-maker gave reporters a look at the twin-engine A350 before it goes on display at the Singapore show starting Tuesday in its first public appearance since its debut flight in June last year. It will also join the show's flying display.
A little more than half of the jet is
made of lightweight carbon fiber to make it lighter and more fuel efficient, a
key consideration for airlines contending with volatile fuel prices.
The A350, which comes in three versions typically carrying 276 to 369 passengers and has a list price ranging from $254.3 million to $332.1 million, will allow Airbus to step up competition in the long-haul market dominated by Boeing's 777 and 787 jets.Airbus has received 814 orders for the A350 so far, with 30 percent coming from Asian airlines such as Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines. The region is a crucial market for plane makers because its economic growth is driving rapid expansion of jet fleets.
Airbus hopes to woo buyers by showing
off the plane to trade visitors on the show's first two days. Visitors won't
see a plane with a completed passenger cabin because it's still outfitted with
monitoring equipment used in ongoing testing.
The A350 presents an alternative to
Boeing's 787, which also make extensive use of carbon fiber but suffered from
teething problems last year. Lightweight lithium-ion batteries that caught fire
on some planes were the highest profile problem. Airbus opted to abandon using
the same type of battery on the A350 after the fires forced authorities to
ground the 787 fleet for more than a month.
"Airbus has learned a lot from
the 787 Dreamliner's unfortunate problems since its launch. This is the plane
for the next decade and beyond," said Shukor Yusof, an airline analyst at
Standard & Poor's.
He predicted that Asian and Middle
East carriers would place more orders over the next two years because of the
plane's fuel efficiency, advanced design, long range and cheap operating and
"If you're the CEO of an airline
and you've seen the problems that airlines have had with their 787s, you'd
seriously have to consider the A350."
Airbus promises that passengers will
benefit from larger windows, bigger storage bins, better air quality and mood
lighting in the cabin.
"At the end of the day our
airplanes are judged by their efficiency but also by how much the customer
enjoys it," said Fernando Alonso, senior vice president for flight
The airplane's appearance in Singapore
is a strong sign it's on schedule to start deliveries to airline customers in
the second half of the year. Airbus hopes to complete certification by the
third quarter. Alonso said the plane is expected to go into service with launch
customer Qatar Airways in the final quarter.
Airbus engineers say they've been
testing the airplane under extreme conditions as part of the certification
This year they flew the plane to La
Paz, Bolivia for high altitude testing and then to Iqualit in northern Canada
for cold weather trials in temperatures as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius. In
May, they will put it in a climate simulator at McKinley Air Force Base in
Florida, to test it in even more extreme temperatures.
"I'm very confident we'll be able
to certify the airplane as planned and be able to deliver the airplane by end
of year," Alonso said.