During the recent Singapore Airshow 2022, one of the companies with the biggest presence was acclaimed aircraft manufacturer Airbus, with nearly 10 separate media briefings and media conferences, and 6 aircraft on both static and aerial display. Throughout the airshow, Airbus managed to secure numerous orders, including the A350Fs for Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways, as well as additional A220 and A321neo orders for Qantas and numerous other airlines.
With numerous showcased events and static displays, Airbus indeed rolled out an impressive repertoire. This article is a compilation of the facts and updates of the numerous commercial aircraft and services Airbus had to offer at the Singapore Airshow.
Airbus A350 FAMILY
Kicking off this compilation series is Airbus’ flagship, the A350, representing Airbus’s commitment to amalgamate aerodynamics, design, and efficiency with their clean-sheet design. The Airbus A350 program started with the A350-900, which offered a comparable aircraft to the Boeing 777-300ERs and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Subsequently, Airbus continued to develop the A350-900 into different variants, such as the long-range and regional variants. Recently, the A350-900 was further developed into the A350-900 ULR, the longer A350-1000, and most recently, the A350F, which will be covered in this section.
Airbus A350-900 ULR
On static display was Singapore Airlines’ 6th Airbus A350-900 ULR (ultra-long-range) 9V-SGF. The A350 ULR represents the latest incarnation of extreme long-range travel, first made possible with the Airbus A340-500, the A350ULR enables Singapore Airlines to make the longest commercial flights between Singapore and New York/Newark possible. This accomplishment was achieved through the modification of the A350’s iconic sharklets to achieve the maximum possible wing efficiency and drag reduction. Some of the cargo hold areas were forgone to make room for extra fuel tanks to carry an additional 24 tonnes of fuel.
For Singapore Airlines, the typical 253 seats of the long haul A350s was decreased to 161 seats, split between 2 classes (premium economy and business class) to further increase the range of the aircraft. Being the launch customer of the ULR, Singapore Airlines operates 7 of the Airbus A350-900 ULRs (9V-SGA to SGG) across ultra-long routes like San Francisco and New York. Its interior cabins have been heavily optimized to maximize passenger comfort for the long trips, which rationalizes why they removed the economy class seats and replaced them with premium economy.
Carrying the Airbus colour proudly in the skies was the Airbus A350-1000, which performed her aerial displays flawlessly on all the days of the airshow. With a lengthened fuselage to accommodate an additional 17% more passengers than the standard -900 variant, the A350-1000 was launched to directly compete with the Boeing 777-300ER and the 777-9. Currently, Airbus is exploring the potential for an even longer haul journey with Qantas on routes between Australia’s east coast to destinations like London and New York as part of Project Sunrise.
Currently, the -1000 variant is operated by several major carriers like British Airways and Etihad Airways, with Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways forming the bulk of the -1000 operators.
While not on display at the airshow, the upcoming A350F freighter was heavily featured in some of the conferences throughout the event, cumulating into the official order finalization ceremony between Airbus and Singapore Airlines on their confirmed orders of 9 A350Fs. Additionally, Etihad Airways also confirmed an order for 7 A350Fs during the airshow.
Airbus went into further detail with regards to their A350F design. While the A350-1000 will be the proposed variant to be used as a template for the A350F, the A350F will be slightly smaller than the -1000 series with 5 frames forward of the wing root to be removed in order to optimize its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) and center-of-gravity location, allowing it to maximize its cargo capacity. The XWB characteristics of the A350 will allow the freighter variant to carry all large modern engines, as well as the installation of an extra-large main deck cargo door for large and extremely heavy pallet capabilities. This allows her to have a higher structural payload and volume than the current Boeing 777F.
Additionally, her range (which is slightly farther than the Boeing 747-400F) makes her compatible with high-value routes like Hong Kong-Anchorage, making the A350F an attractive option for cargo carriers. Her very design also allows the freighter to meet the ICAO standards for CO2 emissions, allowing Airbus to enter the market for eco-friendly freighters by 2025. As she is similar to the A350-1000, she shares nearly 100% spares/tools commonality with the Airbus A350 series, offering a major maintenance advantage. In terms of operability, her high commonality with the other Airbus aircraft gives a short cross-training duration of between 5 – 11 days, allowing many major airlines to easily integrate the A350F into existing Airbus fleets.
Airbus hopes that the A350F will begin flight tests in late 2024 and obtain her required certifications by 2025. Refer to our earlier articles on the A350Fs for more specifications of the aircraft.
Airbus A220/Bombardier CSeries
Making an appearance at the Singapore Airshow was the Airbus A220. This aircraft, HL8315, was temporarily leased from Korean Air and placed on static display. Being the smallest member of the Airbus family, the A220 promises to intertwine fuel efficiency and range with regional and low-demand routes. Originally part of the Bombardier CS2000 program, the A220 is quickly proving itself popular amongst both low-cost carriers like JetBlue, as well as major airlines like Korean Air, Delta Airlines, and Air Canada.
Onboard the Korean Air A220, the increased cabin space was immediately apparent, which was unusual for a narrow-body jet. Complete with large windows and increased storage space, passenger comfort took a major leapfrog in the A220 for the narrow-body market, which set it apart from competitors like the Embraer E2 family and the Boeing 737 MAX 8. The insulation of the airframe was improved such that the thickness was reduced, allowing for increased width and height allowances in the cabin.
Airbus explained that the A220’s 3,450-mile range was designed to fit into the market for medium- to long-range low-demand routes, bridging the market gap between the regional jets and the A320/Boeing 737 jets. Another key aspect mentioned on its strong versatility, being rated for steep approaches and short landings, which make the A220 an ideal workhorse for airlines operating into challenging airports. Airbus expressed strong optimism for the A220 market, forecasting up to 7,250 aircraft to be ordered and delivered over the next 20 years. While most of the current A220 operators are based in America or Europe, Airbus is expecting the Asia Pacific market to comprise 28% of all new a220 deliveries within the next 2 decades.
Despite being one of the oldest airframes in active service, the A330 has proven to be an extremely versatile platform for multiple roles. With more than 1,500 confirmed deliveries, the A330 has topped the charts as the most successful widebody aircraft in terms of deliveries. Recently, Airbus has unveiled another derivative of the A330 family: The Airbus A330neo.
The Airbus A330neo incorporates the best of the A330’s sleek airframe with the newer Rolls Royce Trent 7000 (developed from the A350’s Trent 1000 engine). Coupled with an updated wing design, the A330neo promises a drastic improvement in fuel efficiency of up to 25% less fuel burn compared to previous generations of aircraft. The cockpit and flight control system also introduced an upgraded array of displays and avionics, derived from the A350. However, its similarities to the existing A330ceo series like the -200 and -300 give the A330neo a 95% spare compatibility, which will reduce its maintenance costs, as well as high commonality, allowing for a much easier cross-training of pilots across other Airbus aircraft.
On static display at the airshow is RP-C3901, one of Cebu Pacific’s 2 active A330-900neo aircraft. Its interior differs from other international carriers with its all-economy layout (being a low-cost carrier), packing in an astounding 459 seats. This maximization of the A330neo’s capacity gives Cebu Pacific’s A330neos the lowest seating cost and the lowest carbon footprint of any aircraft currently, well suiting its purpose for both regional and long-haul destinations. Its interior features the new Airbus Airspace cabin design, giving passengers of the A330neos a more spacious and comfortable cabin experience. Combined with its improved LED lighting technologies, the A330neos promises to elevate the inflight experience for passengers, similar to the A350. Its seating design was also optimized for improved passenger comfort compared to the fleet’s existing A330-300s, giving passengers a larger width, thanks to the A330neo’s larger cabin size.
With more than a thousand A330ceos in service across the world, most of which averaging about 10 years or older, Airbus hopes that the A330neos will offer a viable replacement for the A330ceos in the coming decades.
Airbus certainly has made an impressive showcase of their newest products and services for the commercial aviation sector. With much to offer in the coming years, Airbus has once again cemented its place in the commercial aviation sector, and despite the ongoing dispute with Qatar, the future does indeed look promising for this inspiring aircraft manufacturer.