With the Airbus A380 now terminated, Airbus is said to have decided to ramp up development work on a 400+ seater aircraft to rival the 777-9.
It’s been known for some time that a possible A350-1100 or -1200 version was on the cards, mostly on the back burner until there was a definitive outcome over the A380. With that decision now behind them, the company needs something, not too costly to develop, with a potential market to replace it.
The one thing that needs little work is the Rolls Royce engine, it’s already been static tested well past any threshold a larger aircraft would need. It’s really now about the wing – is the existing one big enough? Vertical stabiliser sizes also tend to shrink with longer aircraft, but with careful engineering existing sizes may still function well enough. Landing gear may need uprating to deal with extra weight, and fuselage extensions should prove relatively easy.
In other areas, the work Airbus has conducted on extended range versions for Qantas Project Sunrise, plus the increased MTOW version due for certification in early 2020, should put it well ahead in overall development.
The question is, will anyone buy it in enough numbers to justify it being built?
With aircraft of this size derived from existing development work, numbers don’t have to be huge. Indeed an order book of 50-80 aircraft would probably suffice over the projects lifespan, to justify its development cost.
The size of an A350-1200 would be considerable. The A35K is already as long as an A340-600 (and has the same forward door spacing, the only other aircraft to do so).
The usual algorithms would have to be applied and a sufficiently profitable balance over airframe costs, fuel consumption and potential fares/seat class arrived at to make it worthwhile for airlines to consider.