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Airbus prepares to take on Qantas 'Sunrise' challenge with A350

Airbus is working to extract even more range from the A350 family as it prepares to respond to the Qantas "Project Sunrise" request for an ultra-long-range aircraft.

"We went on board the [Qantas] 'Sunrise' challenge and are working on it," says A350 marketing director says Francois Obe. "The A350 family of airplanes is really full of potential – more potential."

Airbus currently has the extended-range A350-900ULR in flight testing for delivery to Singapore Airlines in the second half of 2018. However, Obe declined to comment on whether this platform was the focus of the study or Airbus could adapt the larger -1000 for the Qantas requirement, saying only: "We are studying the XWB family."

Qantas is preparing to submit a request for proposals (RFP) from Airbus and Boeing around an ultra-long-haul aircraft under the name Project Sunrise that would allow it to launch nonstop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York around 2022.

"We're hopeful of having the technical evaluation finished this year, and do an RFP process with both manufacturers at some time in 2019 to place an order for the aircraft for delivery in 2022," said Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce at the recent IATA annual general meeting in Sydney.

Boeing is planning to respond to the Qantas requirement with a higher-performance version of the ultra-long-range 777-8. This aircraft is slightly larger than the A350-900, and is scheduled to enter service in 2022.

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