Since unveiling the A350 last December, Airbus has continued to fine-tune the design to maximise the A330 derivative's competitiveness with Boeing's 777 and 787. "We have changed the aircraft three or four times in the last 90 days," says Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy.

Airbus is investing $5.5 billion to develop the new family, which will have only 10% commonality with the A330 and 39% of its structure will be composite. Based on the existing A330-200/300 family, the smaller A350-800 is dimensionally identical to the -200, while the -900, which had originally been based on the A330-300 platform, has now gained a two-frame stretch in the rear fueslage to add an extra seat row.

Both models have gained seat capacity through rearrangements of the passenger cabin. Airbus will relocate the flightcrew rest from the main deck aft of the cockpit to the avionics bay below, freeing up more space in the forward cabin. This option is also being studied for the existing models. A redesign of the aft fuselage has enabled the rear pressure bulkhead to be relocated further back, allowing access to the cabin crew rest area in the bulk cargo compartment to be moved out of the main cabin, providing more space for revenue seats. In their latest guises, the A350-800 can accommodate 253 passengers in a typical three-class layout, increasing to 300 on the -900.

Source: Flight International