Airbus has received EASA certification for the A350, which is now approved for flight. The first delivery to Qatar Airways is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. The A350 program had a much smoother development process than 787 or A380, and it appears that Airbus has learned from the experiences from previous programs in delivering the aircraft on schedule.
Although it is a boost for CEO Fabrice Bregier, we think it is an even prouder moment for program chief Didier Evrard . Look at the delays of recent new aircraft programs, and it is clear that Airbus’ team did exceptionally well to have so few delays. The program looks to be the best EIS of any current development program. Remember this is a clean sheet design, not a derivative.
The program was managed by Evrard – and he managed it differently by taking a delay early on to make sure all the processes and suppliers were in sync. The A380 and A400 programs were tough teachers. And we see Evrard’s team learned every lesson and slowed down to ensure stability and a reliable aircraft. The result was a flight test program that was remarkable for the lack of news – and no news is great news in that regard.
By being on time, Airbus now gets to accelerate deliveries ahead of Boeing and their 777X program. Airbus will have several years to perfect its manufacturing processes. The 777X is a derivative and should see no delays – but we know these can happen as with 747-8, although the 787-9 went very smoothly. All the same, Airbus is now in a strong market position in the super twin segment. The A350 is a big step ahead of the current 777.
A350 customers are likely to be very happy and the 70 canceled orders from Emirates are probably going to be snapped up. It is quite possible Delta takes some of these and that would be a big win for Airbus. Of course nobody outside the airline and the OEMs knows the real state of play. There is talk the airBerlin 787 cancellations are good for Boeing in the Delta campaign. Delta is now in a position to negotiate a very favorable deal with both OEMs.
The A350 program has 39 customers and 750 orders. Even as some of the A350-800 orders switch the A330neo, the program has a robust order book. The latest order book data from the Airbus website is shown below. The Hawaiian A350-800 order was converted to the A330-800 in July but is still listed. There should only be 28 A350-800s on order and likely being switched to the A330neo or the larger A350-900.