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What’s WRONG with the Airbus A350?!

May 16, 2024
- Is something


with the Airbus A350? Now that the larger A380 is out of production, is Airbus about to start losing sales to Boeing at a time when many airlines are choosing replacements for their older wide-body aircraft? Stay tuned. (playful bell) Several air shows were canceled during the pandemic years for obvious reasons. And the first major international air shows like Farnborough returned in 2022. And the number of both visitors and exhibitors only increased in 2023. The Paris Air Show in June this year was a great success and of course , these shows tend to become unofficial competitions between the two largest aircraft manufacturers.
what s wrong with the airbus a350
And by all indications, Airbus won the 2023 Paris Air Show, by a wide margin. Of the around 1,100 aircraft orders that were announced, around 830 were for Airbus, mainly thanks to two huge orders from India which, by the way, were the two largest aircraft orders ever placed. Air India's order for 470 aircraft included aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, but IndiGo's order for 500 aircraft was for Airbus only. Now, India's rapid rise is a fascinating story in itself, but the point here is that Airbus clearly completely dominated in Paris, 2023. But in November this year, there was another big air show in Dubai where the image between The two manufacturers turned out to be very different. - This is the Dubai Airshow, 2023. - On the first day of the show, Boeing launched a series of orders and at least one of them caused a huge shock to many people.
what s wrong with the airbus a350

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what s wrong with the airbus a350...

That day there were initially several relatively small orders for 787s from airlines such as Royal Jordanian Airlines and Royal Air Maroc and there were also some decent orders for 737s from SunExpress, a joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. But before the show, the biggest expectations for new orders for both Airbus and Boeing were Dubai's own airlines, industry giant Emirates, and Flydubai, which is a state-owned low-cost airline. Flydubai began by announcing that they would order 30 787-9s, which would be their first wide-body aircraft. This means they are now getting into the low-rate, long-haul game, a topic I covered in a recent video.
what s wrong with the airbus a350
As for Emirates, it also placed its order for five more Boeing 787s, although it slightly modified its existing orders. And there is talk that Emirates and Flydubai will actually share certain aspects of their future 787 operations. But the really eye-catching order that came out of Dubai was for Boeing's 777X. Emirates added another 90 of these giants to its order books, 55 of which will be the 777-9, which is the largest model, and the remaining 35 would be the 777-8. Now remember these are wide body aircraft. So orders of this size may not seem as impressive as those Airbus received in India over the summer, but they are actually quite astonishing for twin-aisle giants like the 777X.
what s wrong with the airbus a350
With this order, Emirates expects to receive 205 of them in total. So this is all obviously brilliant for Boeing, but


about Airbus and the A350 and why were people so surprised? Well, Airbus received some orders during the show, but not the ones that everyone, including Airbus itself, expected. Ahead of the airshow, aviation insiders expected Emirates and Airbus to announce a pretty big deal for the A350-1000 model, which is now the largest wide-body aircraft Airbus makes and the closest alternative to the 777-9. from Boeing. But that order for this particular variant of the A350 never came to fruition.
And it also became clear that another big order from Turkish Airlines was also not ready to be announced in Dubai, which created a very difficult atmosphere in the Airbus camp. Airbus and Emirates eventually announced a relatively modest order for 15 A350s but, crucially, these orders were for the smaller A350-900. Airbus also announced the sale of 11 A350s to Ethiopian Airlines and another 10 to Egyptair. All of these were also for the 900 model. Now at this point, you might be wondering: is this really important? Fine, Boeing clearly got more sales, but does it really matter which particular model of A350 Airbus sells?
There are many aircraft models that have different subvariants, some longer, some shorter, and aircraft manufacturers typically make them all on the same production line. So does Airbus really care


specific version they sell, as long as their order books are good? Well, the thing here is that Airbus knows very well that when it comes to an airline like Emirates, a bigger plane is always better. If Emirates had their way, they would love to convince Airbus to continue making the A380 just for them. This is because, as I explained in some previous videos, Emirates and other Gulf airlines operate from a single large airport hub.
And to fully maximize the capacity of their hub and keep the number of aircraft arrivals and departures at manageable levels, they need really big planes. In fact, these are some of the few airlines in the world that can keep giants like the A380 full year-round. But in addition to its A380s, Emirates also has many Boeing 777-300ERs, more than 120 of them and quite a few of them will soon be available for replacement. That replacement is what Emirates is now looking for and Airbus had designed its A35-1000 model, precisely for airlines interested in replacing their 777-300ER.
So Airbus knew that unless it could sell this, the largest A350, to Emirates, the airline would probably turn to Boeing and acquire the 777X as a replacement. So what is it about the A350-1000 that Emirates doesn't like? Well, it turns out the answer to that is your engines and I'll explain to you what that means and the serious threat this could pose to the A350 program after this... Okay, I'll be completely honest with you. , balancing my nutritional intake around my crazy work schedule used to be a big problem for me, but today's sponsor, AG1, has actually changed that quite a bit.
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But abandoning the A350-800 meant Airbus now had a plane with two subvariants, each of which had a different engine, and that wasn't ideal. You see, airlines don't like having to deal with more engine types than necessary, as each type would typically require a unique set of spare parts and sometimes even differences in engineer training. Now, to be clear, it is not unusual for different variants of an aircraft model to have engines with minor differences between them. Heavier aircraft generally come with engines that have a higher thrust rating and achieving this can involve small internal differences, often only in the ancillary components.
But in the case of the A350 things go much further. And this is where we have to start talking about the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine family. I have analyzed Rolls-Royce and its history in another video where I explained that, for many years, the company has specialized in jet engines for wide-body aircraft. Rolls-Royce has already produced multiple versions of its Trent engine family for the Airbus A330, some 340s, the A380 and the Boeing 777, as well as the 787. Each of these aircraft has a different variant of the Trent engine, although some of them are quite related. For example, the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 that powers the Boeing 787 and the model 7000 used for the A330neo are incredibly similar, with the biggest difference being that the one used in the 787 has no air bleed system since the 787 uses electricity.
For that. But in the case of the A350, the differences between the engines of the two variants were such that they are effectively different models. For one thing, they have different motor fan diameters. The 900 uses the Trent The larger 1000 model needed an engine with much more power than that. Then Rolls-Royce manufactured the Trent XWB-97. This obviously has a fan diameter of 97 inches or almost eight feet, generating a thrust of 431.5 kilonewtons or 97,000 pounds. Now these are very impressive figures and these engines make the A350 incredibly efficient. It turns out that Emirates and its president, Tim Clark, really wanted the A350-1000 but its engines ruined it.
So why is that? I want to be very clear here NOTE Paragraph to say that this is not a security issue. Rather it has to do with how Emirates could use the 1000 model due to the specific needs of its engines. And by the way, I'm being a little careful because the description of this issue is a topic that has raised some tensions between Emirates and Rolls-Royce. In an interview during the show, Tim Clark said that the service requirements of the A350-1000 engines are too high and, specifically, that the wing uptime is really low. As the name suggests, flight time is how we measure how quickly an engine needs to go into maintenance and therefore needs to be removed from the wing.
Simpler routine checks and maintenance are performed on the ramp between flights with the engine still attached to the plane, but anything heavier than that would require the plane to be taken out of service, which can be really expensive and time-consuming. Now, newer engine models will always need a little time to reach optimal levels of service performance and this also applies to evolutions of existing engines, such as those in the A350 family. However, according to the Emirates president, the flight time of the Trent XWB-97 engines is only a quarter of what it should be, a level of performance he described as flawed.
Now this use of the D-word didn't really sit well with Rolls-Royce. The engine manufacturer immediately jumped to defend their engine, but also acknowledged that there is some smoke behind this particular fire. Rolls-Royce customer service director Ewen McDonald explained that this issue has to do with the weather in Dubai, where Emirate operates. He said: "The engine works very well in what we call benign operations, but in sandy and hot conditions, it is a challenge like any modern engine because the temperatures are very high." And to be fair to Rolls-Royce, we've had other examples of relatively new engines that initially didn't perform very well in hot, dusty climates, leading to more frequent inspections and workshop visits.
Both CFM and Pratt & Whitney have also had relatively short time in wing ranges with both their LEAP-1 and geared turbofan engine. However, recently both engine manufacturers have increased their flight times, but this is a slow process that could involve redesigning some internal parts. Now, during its showdown with Emirates, Rolls Royce was also quick to point out that Emirates would not be the first airline to put the A350-1000 into service in hot and dusty climates. Two other Gulf airlines have not only already ordered the A350-1000, but have also received it and have it in service for quite some time.
These two airlines are Etihad and Qatar. Etihad ordered five of these aircraft and has operated them since 2019. And Qatar was a launch customer of this type, so they started receiving them even a year earlier, in 2018. Qatar currently has 24 A350-1000s and 18 more. come. But it's probably actually the service experience of these airlines that ended up putting Emirates off in the first place. Obviously, all of this frustrates Airbus a lot because it appears that the plane maker had finalized negotiations with Emirates on a huge order for the 1000 model - 35 to 50, in fact - before thefair. But engine contracts and, of course, engine maintenance contracts are negotiated separately and this is where the deal seemed to unexpectedly fall apart.
So why couldn't Rolls-Royce and Emirates come to an agreement on this deal? Well, there are two possible reasons for this. One of them may have to do with a policy change within Rolls-Royce. As seen in previous contracts such as those signed with Qatar and Etihad, for example, Rolls-Royce would cover the costs of any additional maintenance its engines required. This is important because engine manufacturers typically rely heavily on the revenue they earn from maintaining the engines they sell over their lifetime. So obviously, an engine that needs several times more service than expected can really derail the engine manufacturer's economics.
And as I said before, Rolls-Royce has specialized as a manufacturer of wide-body engines. And as long-distance travel suffered greatly during the pandemic, Rolls-Royce's finances also suffered greatly, as they relied heavily on the use of those big engines. For this reason, Rolls-Royce has become more careful in the way it drafts contracts recently to ensure that they can remain profitable and increase their margins, no matter what. And in this case, his conditions simply did not satisfy Emirates. But also from Emirates' perspective, there is another equally important reason why very frequent service intervals simply would not work. Planes only make money when they are in the air, preferably full of passengers and cargo.
Therefore, they do not make money when sitting on the ground, whether parked or in service hangars. So even if Rolls-Royce agreed to foot the bill for additional maintenance, Emirates would still have to cancel flights or even scramble to purchase even more aircraft to cover the shortfall. Therefore, worrying about service intervals is not a case of Emirates being unreasonable. It is simply something that directly impacts your operations. And by the way, something that directly impacts the operation of this channel is that you click on the Like and Subscribe button that appears below. And if you click the notification bell, you'll avoid long downtime.
Anyway, all this means is that Emirates' consolation order for 15 smaller A350-900s satisfied no one. Emirates needs big planes and this situation shows that, at least for the type of climates Gulf airlines operate in, Airbus has no practical answer to Boeing's 777X at the moment. By the way, it's worth mentioning here that Boeing's 777X has its own interesting but very problematic history which I will cover in detail in the next video. But what makes Boeing's sale of 90 777Xs during the Dubai Airshow particularly interesting is that Emirates hasn't been very complimentary of, say, the 777X in recent years, mainly due to its long development delays, but also for other reasons.
That is why this particular episode hurt Airbus a lot. They should have been able to take advantage of the delays Boeing is facing with the 777X, especially since the A350 is already in service. And with a fleet of 123 777-300ERs, another 10 777-200LRs and, of course, those 115 A380s, Emirates is not the customer Airbus can afford to ignore or lose. At this point, some of you may be wondering why Airbus relies on just one engine manufacturer for the A350. Wouldn't it be better to have a couple of options? After all, that's exactly what they're doing with the A320neo family, where their customers can choose between the CFM LEAP-1A or the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan.
While it's true that having multiple engine suppliers used to be the norm for many widebody aircraft, Airbus actually had no less than three options for its legacy A330 family: the General Electric CF6, the Pratt & Whitney 4000, and the Rolls-Royce. Royce Trent 700. Boeing's 777 family also used to have three options from the same three engine manufacturers and the 787 had two. And if we go back even further to the 747, 757, 767 and even further to the 707, we will almost always see more than one engine option on the table. But recently, the trend we've started to see is that aircraft manufacturers tend to concentrate design efforts on a single engine option.
And this is because as aircraft become more complicated, this also means that certification times increase and, with it, costs. Therefore, a second or third engine would only increase these development times and costs even further. It should also be said that in practice, if an airline buys, say, 100 airplanes and their engines have problems, they still can't change a different engine after the fact. This would be very expensive and time consuming if it were possible. Therefore, fixing any problems with the original engines is always the best way to go. That's why even Boeing's 777X only has one engine option, the General Electric GE9X.
And even the later version of the legacy 777 only had the GE90 as an option. So where does Airbus go from here? They cannot simply give up sales of their A350-1000 in hot and dusty environments. And by the way, Airbus is working on a third variant of the A350, the A350F, a cargo plane whose size is between the two passenger versions but closer to the larger A350-1000. Unsurprisingly, given that it will be a heavy freighter, it will use the larger Trent XWB-97 engines, the same engines that Emirates currently dislikes. And that plane will obviously also have a Boeing competitor, the 777-8F.
Well, the good news for Airbus and its A350 customers is that Rolls-Royce is working to fix this problem. In a recent call to investors, Rolls-Royce's new CEO, who joined in January, Tufan Erginbilgic, explained that the company needs to quadruple its profit margins in the next five years. And its main way of doing this will be by increasing the flight time of its widebody engines, which I'm sure is music to Airbus' ears. To make this happen, Rolls-Royce will use technology it is already testing for the UltraFan concept that will eventually become the replacement for the Trent family.
But where does this leave the Airbus A350-1000 at this point? Well, the reality is that Rolls-Royce cannot afford to abandon a customer like Emirates, nor can Airbus. So whether or not the 1000 model will be successful, at least in the short term, will largely depend on how quickly Rolls-Royce can address the aircraft's engine maintenance needs, and I'm sure many airlines are watching with great interest as the Airbus A350 is a fantastic aircraft. Let me know what you think in the comments below and don't forget to subscribe if you like this type of content. If you'd like to support our work, consider sending a super thank you using the heart button below or become part of my amazing Patreon team.
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