LONDON — We recently sat down with Airbus A350 program head Didier Evrard at the Farnborough airshow, talking about everything from the program’s maturity to a possible stretch -1100.
With the News that you Announced Today, of Course you Know that My First Question has to be Surrounding the A350-800 so Given Some of the Details Surrounding the Launch of the 330 neo, and the Fact that It Appears to have some Overlap with the A350-800, why Launch Two Programs that Cover the Same Space?
The 330 neo is just launched today, [and] it’s a perfect follow up of the 330 for original applications. The A350 has a different positioning which is long range. The A350 family is a complete family. The priorities of the group are the [A350]-900 and the [A350]-1000 because this is where the market’s priority are.
The A330 has its own positioning. If you go back to 2006, the [A]330 was going to be stopped in 2011 [or] 2012. This doesn’t appear to be the case. Continuing to improve this very successful product, it’s just a natural thing, and meanwhile we will continue developing the A350 family. The A350-900 and A350-1000 are our priorities, [but] the A350-800 is still part of the family. So I can’t see any problem or any overlap that is today detrimental to the 350 at all.
Would you say that the A350 800’s Economics are Optimized at Longer Ranges versus the A330neo and Its Medium Haul Mission?
Yes absolutely… This is absolutely the case. The 330 neo is the perfect aircraft for the kind of 5000 nautical mile missions, regional, long regional missions. It is absolutely the right thing to do.
Since the Boeing 777X Launched Last Year at Dubai, you Know the Aircraft has Reached an Order Book that’s Roughly Twice the Size of that of the A350-1000 and in that time and the A350-1000 has Won no New Orders and Lost 20 Orders Recently from Emirates. So can the A350-1000 Compete with the 777-9x on Operating Costs?
The A350-1000 is a derivative of the [A350]-900. It uses [the] all new technologies of the A350 family and it develops further. This technology [improvement] from the A350-900 experience into the A350-1000, this is proof of the airframe, this is proof of the engine and [that] it will reach its economics from [a] C.O.C basis.
This is absolutely clear. The 777X is another type of product, which is growing the number of seats, which is a different avenue. We are really concentrating on [staying] within the same very efficient airframe and engine family. We are concentrating on growing the economics on fuel and trip cost, which yields a low risk aircraft.
First it’s [the A350-1000’s] the best technology. Second, it’s built already. Third it enters into service a lot sooner and has no risk. Today we are absolutely on track on the A350-1000 development for entering service in 2017. It’s a very low-risk program, although it is based on brand new technology. So, I think this is absolutely clear that we have the right product and we will obviously continue to improve the family.
Does the Body of A350-900/1000 Offer the Potential to Stretch? There’s a lot of Talk in the Market of an A350-1100, which Would Offer Perhaps even Better Economics than the 777-9X. Is that Possible?
Yes it is possible. We have already considered stretching the A350-1000 further. Of course, we have to look at what the priorities are. Today our priorities are with the airframe that we’ve defined and frozen design for. Today we are launching the pre-industrial phase.
We want to take the best out of it [the A350-1000], which is, of the biggest possible density of seats internally, while keeping the baseline comfort of eighteen inches [seat width].
But we have heard a lot of ideas to putting in additional seats [to the A350-1000] which will further improve [the economics]. That’s the first priority. We will continue to improve the engine and the airframe, that’s second priority. And then later on, we will see if it is appropriate to further stretch the fuselage. And there is the potential for that for sure.
There is a growth potential which is built in the design today not limited to the current design set that we have.
Outside of a Couple of Snags, One to Two Minor Delays, the A350 Program has Run very Smoothly. You’ve Met many of the Targets you Set, Development has run quite Smoothly, your Troubleshooting Policy and Practices Have Been Very Proactive. How would you say you’ve Incorporated Lessons Learned from Previous New-Build wide Buddy Programs this Decade like the A380 and 787 to enable the A350 program to Develop at such a Dmooth, Clean, and Rapid Pace?
Yes, we have learned a lot from the previous programs, particularly from the A380. We’ve defined a very clear process for improvement, which was about program management, customization, which was about stability of the design, focusing on maturity, meeting maturity gates in a straight manner.
And sometimes, we had to take hits at the early stage of the program to protect the back end of the program. And it’s clear that since two years, we have had a very stable plan for development, but this did not come just by chance. It came because we had really adhered to these principles.
For instance we had a new block of design tools, [and] we had invested massively in these design tools that we shared with our worldwide suppliers. We developed new customization policies and we have built our [development] principles on a very rich platform, which reduces a number of issues that we have to deal with.
And this platform is able to accommodate a large variety of layouts for our customers without changing its foundations. So this enables us today to be rather confident at the start of the production… and at the start of the customization… [It’s] not just the number of aircraft, which is great, but also the number of different customers that we are addressing. Plus we have our customer definition center in Hamburg, which helps a lot from that point of view.
So it’s about lessons learned, it’s about maturity, not cutting corners, and trying to provide strategy. But it’s also a lot of work – we’ve had a very stable team from the very beginning of the program and a strong management as well as our regime of partners.
So as the A350-900 Approaches Entry into Service, What Kind of Steps Have you Taken with Launch Customer Qatar Airways to Ensure that the Dispatch Reliability of the A350-900 will Come in at a Strong Level from the Beginning?
Because your Competitor, with their most Program Launch, had some Difficulties with that. So What Sort of Steps have you Taken to Ease that Process?
So again, we’ve put a lot of focus on aircraft maturity and program maturity. But what we’ve added on top is what I would call a maturity accelerator, which is our “Airline 1” concept. What is “Airline 1”? “Airline 1” is a concept by which our flight test fleet functions as an operator almost.
So we have installed with the flight test team, a team which really handles the operations, upgrades the aircraft, maintains the aircraft, and on that tests the aircraft. When necessary, they find fixes – like if they were an operator. And by doing that, we accelerate the last part of the maturity curve, which should normally lead us to a good level of reliability at the time of entry into service.
Since the beginning we have always had, almost at the beginning, we have airlines inserted in our teams to help us discussing in the priorities. [We had] 5 to 6 airlines working with us. And now the next element is for Qatar Airways themselves. We have been preparing hand to hand with them, from training to service. They can get all the support that is going to be needed at the start of operations, that we anticipate based on what we know.
We want as few weaknesses at the beginning of operations [as possible], so we anticipate the challenges and provide this additional support to avoid impacting the operations.