Airbus set to launch a freighter variant of its popular A350 series

Airbus is marching ahead to launch a freighter variant of the A350 wide-body aircraft, according to initial reports.

Airbus A350
Airbus set to launch an A350 freighter variant 

The European manufacturer is in continuous talk with cargo operators to gauge interest in a widebody freighter that could compete in a market currently monopolized by Boeing.

Airbus is expected to formally launch the new wide-body freighter program once it secures some commitments from cargo operators as per Cargo Facts.

Does it mean delay in A330-900F?

Airbus may put plans for a A330-900 freighter on hold, which is a bit larger than the currently produced A330 freighters. The A350 would be freighter would be highly prioritized.

Airbus A350 programme has so far logged a total of 935 orders for the passenger variant and recently delivered the 350th A350 to Air France earlier in Feburary.

If Airbus launches the A350 freighter, it would represent the company’s first factory-built freighter in the wide-body segment since the unsuccessful attempt of the A380 freighter program almost two decades ago.

Airbus A350 Air france
Airbus delivered 350th A350 to Air France Photo: Jet Photos

Aircraft capable of ferrying payloads of more than 80 tonnes are considered to be an widebody aircraft commonly. Airbus builds two passenger variant of the popular A350 series, the -900 variant and the -1000 variant.

Which variant of A350 is likely to be modified?

Airbus is likelier to choose the larger -1000 variant for the freighter programme if it gets a go-ahead signal, citing its greater capacity and payload.

Antonov An-225 is the largest freighter aircraft with a payload of  whooping 250 tonnes, though only one is service being the single one ever built.

Boeing 747-8F with a payload of 134 tonnes is the largest freighter produced by Boeing. 

Airbus A330-200F is the largest freighter aircraft produced by Airbus as of now with a maximum payload of 70 tonnes.

Antonov An-225
Antonov An-225 is the largest cargo aircraft in service Photo: CNN

Estimated specifications of the A350-1000 freighter position the aircraft as an alternative to the Boeing 777F which carriers a payload of around 100 tonnes. A350-1000 freighter is expected to carry a payload of around 95 tonne as per early estimates. 

What does a A350 freighter version mean for Airbus?

It would represent the company’s first factory-built freighter in the wide-body segment after decades.

Airbus A350-1000 freighter version would be larger in volume than its’s rival-built 777F, which is popular among cargo operators worldwide.

This new variant would directly compete with Boeing 747, 767 and obviously the 777F cargo aircraft.

Airbus A350-1000 freighter would have enjoyed a great market position, if it had been launched before October 2019, a bit earlier than the 777-300ER freighter version.

Boeing 777F
Airbus A350F would directly compete with the Boeing 777F

“It is unclear how an A350 freighter would fit into the global freighter fleet,” said Frederic Horst, managing director at Cargo Facts Consulting. “An A350-1000F would compete directly with a lower-capital-cost 777-300ERSF, whereas an A350-900F would compete with a 777-200F, but due to its lower design density, is a less-capable aircraft.”

As a measure to reduce operating cost, Airlines are trying their best to modernize and renew their current fleet in operation. Most of the larger freighters mainly comprised of Boeing 747s and MD-11Fs will need to be replaced over the next 10-12 years.

How many wide-body freighters are currently in service?

According to reports, a total of 621 larger wide-body freighters are in-service comprising of older 747-400 variants along with newer 747-8F and 777X manufactured by Boeing and MD11 along with some MD-10s.

Airbus A350
Qatar Airways is the launch customer of A350 Photo: Qatar Airways

Airbus A350 was launched back in 2005 and the first A350-900 was delivered to Qatar Airways back in 2015. Similarly, the first -1000 variant was also delivered to Qatar Airways in 2017. Earlier today, Qatar received its 49th A350.

According to reports, Airbus has started to pitch its A350F among the cargo operators from around the globe.

Do you think A350 freighter will be launched someday in the near future? Let us know in the comments below:  

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