Airbus is fine-tuning its A350 development plans and aims to have the 250-seat -800 ready to enter service in mid-2010 and the 290-seat -900 six months later.

News of the schedule, given by Airbus marketing vice-president Colin Stuart, coincides with confirmation from Boeing that the target service entry for the 787-8's shorter-range derivative, the 223-seat 787-3, is aimed firmly at the first half of 2010. Entry into service of the 787-8, scheduled for first flight in August 2007, is unchanged at mid-2008.

Boeing has yet to declare a target EIS for the stretched 787-9, which is currently configured to carry 259 passengers in a three-class layout on routes up to 15,400km (8,300nm). Although the company says 2010 continues to be discussed, it adds: "Right now it's looking more like 2012."

Speaking at the Speednews suppliers conference, Stuart said further design improvements to the A350 had allowed maximum take-off weight to grow a further 1,000kg (2,200lb), for a total increase of almost 10t over the A330-200/300. Weight savings of about 8t have been achieved through extensive use of composites and both passive and active load alleviation, with the latter, in turn, allowing the use of a lighter, smaller horizontal tailplane.

Airbus is also aiming for a 15% reduction in airframe maintenance costs for the A350 compared with the A330. "We will target very different check intervals for the A350," said Stuart. Against the 787, the A350-800/900 would be "fully competitive in terms of payload and specific fuel consumption", he said. In cost per seat/km terms, the larger capacity of the Airbus pair is expected to show a difference as "these aircraft are around 10% and 6-7% bigger than the 787".

Correction: In our 15-21 March issue, we published incorrect dates for testing of the General Electric CF34-10A engine for the AVIC I Commercial Aircraft ARJ21 regional jet. The first engine will in fact be tested in October 2006 and enter flight testing in October 2007. The ARJ21 in-service date remains on target for 2008.


Source: Flight International