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Champion regrets customer concerns voiced ‘a bit late’

Feedback from potential and existing A350 customers about the need to make radical changes to the design came “a bit late”, says a senior Airbus executive.

In an interview with the BBC for its Hard Talk series, Airbus chief operating officer Charles Champion says that, while Airbus welcomes “constructive criticism” from customers during the development of any new aircraft, he felt it came “a bit late, maybe”.

Champion also blames the timing of a decision to study a fundamental redesign of the aircraft on the fact that Airbus “underestimated how much our customers wanted a competition between Airbus and Boeing with a new product from our side”.

The possibility of a major re-design of the A350 is currently going through a discussion “loop” with “all stakeholders internally”, says Champion, to see whether “an alternative, better A350 will do the job”. These discussions are expected to be concluded “rather quickly, I think before Farnborough [in July]”, he adds.

Part of the evaluation includes further improvements to the wing to increase cruise speed beyond the Mach 0.83-0.84 of the current A350, but this “will not be a complete redesign” says Champion. “We are taking the opportunity of the redesign to give a bit more sweep in order to have a bit more cruise speed,” he says. “We are talking 0.02/0.03 Mach – not big numbers.” Champion acknowledges that if Airbus adopts a redesign, the aircraft would not be ready until “a couple of years later than today’s A350”, or around 2012.

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