The German government announced this week that production of the new Airbus A350 is expected to begin soon in Germany, and “is described by the company as an eco-friendly passenger aircraft that can seat between 270 and 350 passengers.” So what’s the big deal? Perhaps a little history.
If you didn’t already know, the world’s two largest airline manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, have had a little bit of a philosophical divergence when it comes to the future of air travel. Boeing, betting on fuel efficiency and shorter, hub-based travel, has been developing the 787 since the late ’90’s. Seating 240 people, the plane is also the first composite airliner in production (about half is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic).
Airbus, on the other hand, decided to take the Howard Hughes side of the road and create the A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner in the world, capable of long-haul flights, and, more importantly, in-flight showers. Capable of seating 853 (!) passengers, the plane is two stories high and has enough room for it’s own art gallery (Air France) or showers (Emirates).
Largely hailed as a success, the A380 has been flying since 2005, whereas the 787 has been experiencing numerous delays and is still in its test stages. (Though this hasn’t stopped orders. In June of 2007, 600 orders for the 787 had already been placed.)Perhaps sensing weakness and the desire to address the environmental concerns of the 787, Airbus’s creation of the A350 takes direct aim at the 787 and should go a long way to finally filling that void for fuel-efficient planes with in-cabin bars.
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