The 93,000lb Trent XWB engine, recently called "certainly sufficient" to meet the mission requirements of the 350-seat A350-1000, appears set to get a 5000lb thrust boost to better compete with Boeing's 777-300ER. That jump to 98,000lbs - which Steven Udvar-Hazy said was necessary to meet its goals - is aimed at increasing the payload range capability of the -1000 another 500nm from 7,990nm to 8,490nm. Yet, even if the new Trent XWB is only designed to meet the near-8,000nm mission, then the powerplant may begin to accelerate Boeing's -300ER upgrades, and could pose a larger challenge to the 777 family.
While the development of the new larger 98,000lb Trent XWB will certainly push the late-2015 EIS well to the right, even before any A350-900 delays are made official, the new engine gives Boeing some clarity on how to respond to the design changes.
However, understanding the foundations of Airbus's incremental "DNA" this new (and costly) engine is not a one-off to compete at 350-seats. The Trent XWB+ (or whatever it will be dubbed) is Airbus's answer for not just the -300ER market, but the ultra-long range -200LR at 301-seats, and more even more importantly the highly successful 777F.
The A350-1000 engine was already set to power both the A350-900R and A350-900F, so even with a five year slip to 2020, the -1000 gets Airbus into the long-range 350-seat market faster than Boeing got to the -300ER after the 777-200's 1995 entry into service. In no uncertain terms, Airbus is taking a page from Boeing's own playbook in the same way that the General Electric GE90-110 and -115 cover the 777F, -200LR and -300ER.
Though, the new engine also presents increased risk for the A350-1000. Boeing, by comparison, moved the simple fuselage stretch of 33ft 3in first to the 777-300, then evolved once again to the 777-300ER's updated airframe and GE90-115BL engines. The much maligned "Derivatives R Us" phase of Boeing's history in the late 1990s has yielded its current cash crop of product.
The middle step to the -300, which was a basic stretch of the 777-200ER's airframe, allowed Boeing to significantly de-risk the -300ER's development by better understanding the airframe's capability before optimizing it for the longer missions. Make no mistake, this engine looks to be readying a full assault against the 777 program.
Photo Credit Airbus