Airbus hopes to deliver up to 80 A350 aircraft in 2017
PARIS: Airbus tentatively aims to deliver as many as 80 A350 jetliners in 2017, two people familiar with the plans said.
The target marks a new stage in ambitious plans to raise output of the company’s newest long-haul jet to 10 a month in 2018, but depends mainly on how successful suppliers will be in curbing delays in cabin equipment.
An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on the provisional thinking on deliveries for 2017, which would equate to production of just under 7 aircraft a month. Airbus is expected to give details of its 2017 delivery plans in February.
Speaking at an event to mark the first flight of the large A350-1000 variant, Airbus planemaking chief Fabrice Bregier said he was more optimistic than before about reaching a target of at least 50 A350 deliveries in 2016.
Airbus delivered the 35th airplane of the year on Thursday.
At the same time, Airbus aims to swiftly increase deliveries of the smaller A320neo, which have been held back by delays in the supply of engines from US-based Pratt & Whitney.
Programmes chief Didier Evrard said on Thursday the supply chain had improved but remained under scrutiny.
Also key to the ramp-up is the amount of outstanding work that needs to be done later in the assembly process than scheduled, a drag on time and costs that is often caused by missing or defective parts.
Bregier said on Thursday the amount of A350-900 outstanding work had fallen to a “low level.”
Airbus plans to deliver the first of the larger A350-1000 variant “hopefully a bit less than year from now,” well within the target of second-half 2017, following an accelerated program of flight tests, Bregier told reporters.
It aims for just under 12 months of flight tests, compared with 14.5 for the earlier A350-900 model.
Airbus says the A350-1000 will be 25 percent cheaper to operate than the competing Boeing 777-300ER, an older aircraft which weighs more but which has more seats in some layouts.
Boeing has responded to the A350-1000 by developing an even larger version of 777 able to seat over 400 people, making it the largest twin-engined jet when it enters service in 2020.
Airbus is also considering whether to go up in size with a further stretch of the A350, but senior marketing vice president Francois Caudron said it did not currently deem this necessary.
Industry sources say Airbus is nonetheless offering the potential “A350-2000” to influential buyers including Singapore Airlines and British Airways.
Such a jet would need an enhancement of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine that powers the A350-1000, already one of the industry’s largest with a fan case large enough to swallow the fuselage of the now defunct Concorde.
Chris Young, programs director at the embattled UK engine manufacturer, which is in the midst of restructuring, said it would always be ready if needed to upgrade its engines or add new ones according to the needs of airplane manufacturers.