ILFC boss says airframer must decide if twinjet will be basis of next widebody family

Airbus faces a decision on further refining the A350’s specification or committing to a thoroughly upgraded design that will serve as the backbone of the manufacturer’s future widebody fleet, according to International Lease Finance (ILFC) chairman and chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy.

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© Airbus

Udvar-Hazy says that if Airbus opts for a major A350 revamp, it will be an "$8-10 billion decision"

“I think the latest version of the A350 looks excellent. But it still has some elements left over from early models of the [manufacturer’s] widebody family. Airbus needs to address will they have a new family of aircraft,” said Udvar-Hazy, speaking at last week’s ISTAT conference in Orlando, Florida.

He added that Airbus is at a crossroads, faced with building the A350 as presented today, based on the A330 platform, or committing to a new widebody design.

Although the A330 twinjet formed the basis of the A350 when the design work was initiated two years ago, in its latest iteration the two models have less than 5% commonality. Despite adopting aluminium lithium for the fuselage structure and carbonfibre for much of the wing, the new aircraft retains the A330’s fuselage cross-section and wing planform.

When launched last year, Airbus put development costs at around €4.35 billion ($6.3 billion). However, Udvar-Hazy warned that should Airbus commit to more significant A350 changes, it will be an “$8 billion to $10 billion decision”. He also expects that decision will have to be made between now and the Farnborough air show in July.

ILFC agreed in November to take 12 A350s (since increased by a further four), after Airbus improved the twinjet’s specification. ILFC later said the changes addressed its concerns about the A350’s cabin design and its cruise speed, which was significantly slower than the rival Boeing 787.

Udvar-Hazy sees the A350 as a response by Airbus to being “stunned” and “caught a little bit behind the power curve” after Boeing shifted gears from the Sonic Cruiser plan to developing a new family of aircraft with the 787.


Source: Flight International