The Airbus A350 series is rapidly closing on 200 in-service aircraft, and despite a disappointing Singapore Airshow in terms of orders for all manufacturers, the A350-1000 was the star of the show for many.
Due to enter service with Qatar in a weeks time, delayed this time by Qatar Airways and problems with their highly complex business class seat, the first A35K is another milestone.
Most aircraft go for extensive periods before a new upgrade – the A380 is only now potentially getting tweaks to its aerodynamics after ten years. However Airbus quietly announced at Singapore that the A350 will get some quite visible alterations.
The biggest is a considerable increase in the size of the wing tip’s amazingly curvaceous and sculpted vertical fins. The indication s are these could be up to 35% larger than they are now. They’re that much heavier that testing has had to be carried out to ensure they work with the wing, and that the additional weight is compensated for by fuel efficiency savings. Airbus aren’t saying how much of an increase they’ve gained, but I’m told its as much as 1.2%, once other small alterations and details have been amended to compliment the wing tip change.
Aerodynamic shifts of that magnitude are pretty significant – if you follow Formula-1 you’ll know that a shift like that is considered seismic in its impact. For airlines it could mean a significant saving in fuel consumption, and that in turn benefits everyone with fewer emissions and reductions in Co2 output.
Iberia are said to be the first customer to get the aircraft, and the fin is a direct result of the development project around the A359ULR.