In launching plans for a dedicated wide body freighter today, Airbus launched another battle with Boeing for this lucrative sector, dominated in recent years by Boeing’s 747-8F, 777 and still in demand 767-300F.
Despite the delays Boeing has with the 777X launch delays, and no board approval for a freighter version, Boeing was reported last month (June 2020) to be showing airlines a 777X-F variant to Qatar Airways after it announced in April 2021 interest in acquiring 30 or more freighters in a multi-million deal. That could make Qatar the launch customer for Airbus if a deal was signed.
Now Airbus has announced its board has backed an A350 freighter to enter service in 2025, though as yet there is no launch customer. It will join their smaller A330F in the Airbus freighter offering. Speaking during a first-half results briefing on 29 July, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury, said the new A350 freighter design is “predominantly coming from the -1000”.
“[We’ve] been quite absent from the widebody freighter market so far,” and “It’s time for airlines to see some competition.” “We believe we have a very promising aircraft,” Fauri also said, “We are closer every day, but we are not at the point where we can announce commercial transactions,”.
At the time of writing, performance details have yet to emerge fully, but Faury says the freighter will have a 90t-plus payload capability, with some industry sources saying it could be close to 110t. He believes the aircraft is a “very strong” platform and has the potential to be “very competitive” in terms of capacity and fuel-burn, given the ICAO environmental regulations changes coming in 2028.
When the Covid-19 crisis hit last year, the grounding of airline fleets across the world struck the aviation industry to its core. But in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity. Now, more than ever, operators are analysing how to optimise their current and future widebody fleets to maximise operational efficiency by carrying more cargo as the world emerges from the pandemic crisis.
“We proudly saw the A350-1000s quickly put to use in repatriation and cargo flights leading to the opening of 24 new routes with the A350 in a single month in 2020 alone.” Francois Obe, Head of Widebody Marketing Development at Airbus
“The wave is ahead of us,” Guillaume Faury said and “There’s a strong utilisation of cargo capacity [during the pandemic] but still a lot of old [aircraft] and we see a wave of replacements for the second half of the decade.”
Boeing last year predicted demand for 2,430 freighters over 20 years, including 930 purpose-built cargo planes and 1,500 converted from passenger airplanes. Little wonder then that Airbus announced today the new freighter based on the state of the art A350-1000 as there appears to be a gap in the market for it.
Reuters did the following analysis of the wide body market (https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/juggernauts-sky-how-boeing-airbus-freighters-compare-2021-07-29/) which was surprising to see the backlog Boeing has for some of its older model jets, especially the 767-300F.