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A350 stretch would need further engine evolution: Bregier

Airbus is likely to reconsider a stretched A350 concept only after a further evolution of engine technology, reiterating that there is no clear demand for a larger version.

The airframer had admitted, at last year's Paris air show, that it was effectively shelving development of the concept – which it has provisionally called the 'A350-2000' – because it could not see immediate appeal to the market.

Airbus commercial aircraft president Fabrice Bregier, speaking as the airframer detailed its 2017 order performance, stressed that the company needed to be "consistent".

"We cannot say the market for very big aircraft is, right now, difficult and [then] launch the -2000," he says.

Airbus intends instead to concentrate on enhancing the A350-900 and the newly-certified -1000.

Bregier points to Boeing's initially developing the 787 as a two-member family, the 787-8 and -9, before the US airframer launched the stretched -10 in 2013.

"There is extra potential that was extracted by Boeing on the 787 and which is still present for us to capture in the next four or five years," he says.

"Then we will see – and probably, when there is a new generation of engines, we will be able to question whether we can stretch again the A350.

"The good news is that we've studied it, and it is possible."

Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines power both the -900 and -1000 variants of the A350. Airbus has secured orders for 854 A350s of which 169 are for the larger -1000.

The company gained net orders for 36 A350s last year, just one of which was for the -1000.

Bregier says the airframer has been focused on ensuring it can increase production of the A350 smoothly. Last year Airbus delivered 78 A350s, in line with its ramp-up target, although the company missed delivery of the first -1000.

"Our challenge is having a backlog of 800 and starting from scratch," says Bregier. "Now we're confident we can deliver aircraft from 2020 and beyond."

Qatar Airways will be first customer to receive a -1000, following its certification last year, although Airbus has yet to confirm a delivery date.

Bregier insists the -1000 is a "good aircraft" and says it will be able to compete strongly in the market previously dominated by the Boeing 777-300ER.

"When we have the replacement wave, we'll have a huge opportunity," he says.

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