Air Transport World

The Agony and the Ecstasy: 787 stumbles on delivery delays as A350 makes up ground.(LARGE TRANSPORTS)

AS THE INDUSTRY DEBATES THE TITANIC 787 VERSUS A350 XWB battle, it would do well to remember that two of the most successful aircraft programs in history, the 737 and 777, were last out of the blocks. When the 737 was launched, the competing DC-9 and BAC 1-11 were already in flight test, while the 777 was committed to production well after the MD-11 and A340-200/-300 had "sewn up" the market for long-haul 300-seaters.


With the latest 787 delay, the gap between it and the A350 has narrowed to four years, although many now see the A350 as more of a competitor to the 777-200ER and thus with an advantage over any 777 improvement or replacement strategy. And the XWB no longer is a glossed-over A330. After three agonizing years, it now reflects airline demands for an all-composite and wider fuselage plus a composite high-speed wing. No sooner did Airbus confirm the switch to a composite panel fuselage on a metal frame--subsequently changed to a composite frame--than the spigots opened.

There is no question that Airbus is back in town in the midsize twin-aisle arena, with the prized Emirates order for 50 A350-900s and 20-1000s giving the program the seal of approval. It boasts a blue chip roster of customers including Singapore Airlines, ILFC, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise and Qatar Airways, to name a few. During 2007 the company was able to secure orders for 290 A350s, while Boeing sold 369 787s and 141 777s.


The design has been frozen and the detailed definition freeze will occur later this year. Final assembly is set to begin in the first quarter of 2011 with first flight one year later. Entry into service for the-900 is mid-2013, followed by the-800 in 2014 and the-1000 late in 2015. These dates represent a slippage of one year on the schedule announced at the 2006 Farnborough Airshow.

The baseline aircraft is the-900, which is 67.3 m. long. The-1000 has four additional frames aft and seven forward of the wing, making it the same length as the 777-300ER, while the-800 loses four aft and five forward frames plus one over the wing. …

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