Airbus revealed this image yesterday. Its of the first A350XWB for TAM Airlines which rolled out of the Airbus paint shop in Toulouse, revealing the aircraft in signature red, white and blue livery. The aircraft will continue through the next stages of production, including the installation of engines, completion of cabin furnishing and cockpit fitting, before starting ground and flight tests. The aircraft is scheduled for delivery to TAM Airlines in December.
TAM will become the first airline from the Americas to fly the A350 XWB and the fourth operator in the world. LATAM Airlines Group, made up of LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, has ordered 27 A350-900s. The carrier will start operating the A350 XWB in January 2016 between Sao Paulo and Manaus, followed by international operations between Sao Paulo and Miami, and Sao Paulo and Madrid.
Meanwhile in more A350 news, yesterday Finnair’s first A350 had its maiden flight. The activity around the A350 program is welcomed, because it has been far quieter than we would have expected. Our expectations are guided by what was an exceptionally well run flight test program which saw minimal hitches and hiccups. It was clear from the flight test program Airbus had climbed a steep learning curve from the A380 successfully. In addition, seeing and flying on the aircraft gave us considerable confidence in Airbus’ A350 program. The aircraft is a looker.
In June 2015 Airbus revealed plans to increase A350 production to beyond 10 per month four years after EIS, putting us at 2018 for this target. Airbus said it plans to deliver 15 A350s this year. For 2016 plans are to deliver 60 A350s, or five per month. This is effectively a 400% ramp up, which is no small task.
Through August there have been four A350s delivered. This means Airbus should be delivering 11 A350s over the next 100 days or so to meet the 2015 target.
Airbus advised us: “From the start we said we’d ramp up the A350 production rate progressively to 10 per month 4 years after first delivery, which means by end 2018. The target to deliver 15 A350s in 2015 remains unchanged and we are on track. We’ve delivered 5 A350 XWBs in total so far, 4 to date in 2015. As with all brand new programmes, the first aircraft and heads of versions require more time. This is factored into our planning and we are working towards meeting this year’s target. (The year is not over.) By end of the year, we will have delivered aircraft to four customers in all corners of the globe – Qatar, Vietnam, Finnair and TAM.”
Our sense is that A350 production feels slower than we expected, and we wonder if Airbus will reach its delivery target this year. Which also has us wondering if they can achieve five per month next year. The targets are aggressive based on what we have seen – four deliveries in eight months is far from five per month. That 400% climb is looking ever more prodigious.