Lighter, Faster, Wider: The Evolution of the ACJ350 XWB
There are a lot worse things than having your aircraft compared to the outstanding Boeing 787, and that is exactly the position Airbus has found themselves in ever since they released the A350. In fact, debating the finer of the two is somewhat of a hot topic in aviation circles, and the updated A350-900 XWB has done nothing to curb the praise being showered on this flagship model.
The A350’s journey was not an easy one. A bumpy road rife with delays meant that the first finished aircraft arrived almost half a decade later than originally scheduled. Delays in the industry are nothing new but five years is a particularly significant period. However, it may have been a blessing in disguise.
$10 billion over budget
The added time and planning required meant that the A350 was massively over budget; one can only imagine investors’ raised eyebrows at the sight of a $15 billion bill for what was supposed to be a $5 billion aircraft. However, the cashback caveat of newer technology being available sweetened the deal. Coming approximately six years after the Boeing 787, the A350 enjoyed the very straightforward advantage of coming second.
Previously, the A350 had come under scrutiny for a perceived lack of space. The Xtra Wide Body – or XWB – looks to address this. The newer model’s cabin cross-section is a full 12 inches wider than the A330 with an additional two inches of width on each window, adding to the natural lighting that enters the cabin. An extra 3⁰ in wing sweep sees an overall increase to Mach 0.85 with the thrust up to 95,000 from 75,000.
2,910 square feet of cabin space ensures there’s room enough for 25 passengers to experience the utmost comfort. The ultra-long aircraft are packed with fun amenities, not least the tail camera which is attached to many of the A350s and allow passengers to view a live external feed, of their flight. Despite a 15,000 km range, the aircraft is surprisingly quiet, adding to the enjoyment of the flight for passengers.
As well as the improved physical dimensions, the A350-900 XWB performs better in the air. There’s a 2% improvement in specific fuel consumption (SFC), engine maintenance costs have been reduced by 5%, and the lower airframe maintenance has dipped by an even more substantial 10%. It’s lighter, faster, bigger, and has cheaper upkeep.
The company believe these changes to the aircraft reflect their core values, a view emphasized by Chief Operating Officer John Leahy:
“One of Airbus’s greatest strengths is to offer customers the world’s most modern and efficient aircraft family, and the A350 with Easyfit expands its corporate jet offering, giving customers a new way to take their business to the world,” said Mr Leahy. “Our customers want the best and most modern aircraft that money can buy, and the ACJ350 exemplifies that.”
Over 800 orders
So how popular is the A350 overall? To date, Airbus has secured 810 orders (at a cost of $254 million per aircraft) from 43 customers across the globe including a lucrative relationship with Qatar Airways. Indeed, Airbus sees the A350 as an integral part of both its present and future; the airline giant is looking to ramp up production to 10 aircraft per year by 2018, and the long term plans are even more telling of the company’s reliance on the model. Over the next two to three decades the A350 could represent a staggering 40% of the company’s revenues.
It’s easy to see why the new model has been so successful. The visuals of the floor space are stunning, with ample room for passengers to maneuver around the cabin and mingle thanks largely to the Easyfit outfitting which incorporates hundreds of attachment points. Easyfit opens the door to a relatively easy and extensive customization process which allows discerning customers to alter many aspects of the aircraft’s interior. Bulkheads, fixtures, cabinets; altering and adjusting the internal aspects is not a big issue here.
The tech is all upgraded and exciting, too. The onboard airport navigation system (OANS) gives pilots an overview of the area surrounding the airport apron and works in conjunction with a new input device which tracks the aircraft’s location. Working alongside a runway overrun protection system (ROPS) that alerts the pilot whenever the risk of overrunning crops up and initiates protective action when necessary, passengers can be sure that they are in safe hands.
As anybody in the aviation game will understand, airlines are coming under increasing pressure to lower their carbon footprint and think green. This means that potential buyers are having to consider how aircraft impact the environment and what kind of effect this could potentially have on the airborne performance. The AJ350 XWB will not disappoint. We’ve already mentioned the impressively quiet performance of the aircraft, but it also has low emission levels (25% below CAEP/6 NOx level), a powerful take-off made possible through the Onboard Information System, and precision on-airport guidance systems which help craft the most economically viable journeys.
In the most fundamental ways, the XWB is simply bigger. Even at eye level seats are visibly wider; four inches at the shoulder and three at the armrest really do make the difference on those long haul flights. If you notice a difference in the atmosphere, it may not be in your head. The cabin humidity clocks in at just 20% at or below 6,000ft, and the Flow Management System alters the circulation based on the number of passengers on board.
The ACJ350’s caliber has never been in doubt. A standout aircraft held in a place of esteem alongside the likes of the prestigious Boeing 747, the model has proven invaluable to Airbus through over 800 orders. Now, with the introduction of the XWB model, we can see the evolution of the aircraft coming to fruition.
Pictures Courtesy of Airbus