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Airbus Commercial Aircraft: positioned for the future (2017)

Airbus delivered a total of 49 A350 XWB jetliners in 2016, reflecting the effectiveness of the company’s production ramp-up.

Airbus Commercial Aircraft entered 2017 on a strong competitive footing, having met the 2016 jetliner delivery goals and logging an order volume that exceeded the year’s target and raised backlog to a new industry record; all while positioning itself as a more efficient, innovative company offering a broader range of services to customers. 

The record of 688 aircraft deliveries in 2016 confirmed that the company's largest-ever production ramp-up was truly underway and gathering momentum. For new business logged during the year, the 731 net orders boosted overall backlog to a new industry record of 6,874 as of 31 December, representing approximately 10 years of production at current rates. 

Company integration involving the merging of Airbus – the commercial aircraft manufacturing division – with Airbus Group, the parent company, is resulting in a leaner, less complex organisation that is united under a single brand: “Airbus.”

IranAir’s fleet modernisation begins with Airbus

Initial delivery activity in 2017 included the handover of IranAir’s first new aircraft, a single-aisle A321, which occurred at Airbus’ Toulouse, France industrial facility during January.  

It was the first delivery from a firm order placed by IranAir in December 2016 for 100 Airbus aircraft (46 single-aisle and 54 widebody jetliners) to renew and expand its fleet. 

Iran is forecast to require some 400-500 new aircraft to modernise and to grow its existing passenger fleet, meeting demand on domestic as well as international routes. 

THE A350 XWB’S NEWEST OPERATORS

Handover of the no. 1 A350-900 jetliner to Air Caraïbes was marked during a February delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France.

In February, Air Caraïbes became the 11th customer worldwide to receive Airbus’ A350 XWB – which will be used on this carrier’s routes between Paris and the French Caribbean, operated alongside the A330s already in service.  

Accommodating up to 389 passengers in a three-class configuration, Air Caraïbes’ A350-900 version offers passengers comfort and quietness provided by the “Airspace by Airbus cabin,” combined with a new lighting system that helps reduce the effects of jet lag.  

Keeping up the delivery pace, Asiana Airlines of South Korea received its first A350-900 in April – making it the 12th airline to operate the world’s newest and most efficient twin engine widebody airliner. 

Preparing the A350-1000 for entry into service

An A350-1000 makes one of several test runs through a purposely-inundated surface performed to demonstrate the aircraft’s robustness and secure its maturity from entry into service.

A wide range of tests continue to be performed on the A350-1000 in advance of its targeted entry into service in the second half of 2017. The most recent test of the stretched-fuselage version of Airbus’ A350 XWB Family aircraft was an Early Long Flight performed in May. Taking off and landing from Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters location, the 12-hour trip was operated as closely as possible to a typical airline flight, from catering before take-off to onboard service courtesy of a Virgin Atlantic Airways cabin crew.

Previous tests include: water trough testing performed at Istres Air Force Base in southern France in which the aircraft was purposely run along an inundated surface to demonstrate its robustness; fuel system and engine tests in Cardiff, Wales; external noise measurement tests in Moron, Spain; a “high and warm” flight test campaign in Latin America; and cold weather testing under the extreme conditions found in Iqaluit, Canada.

Designed for upsized efficiency, the A350-1000 variant is seven metres longer than the A350-900 version, which began airline service in 2015. With its stretched fuselage, the A350-1000 accommodates 40-plus more seats in a typical three-class configuration. It features a modified wing trailing-edge, new six-wheel main landing gears and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines. 

Major achievements for A319neo and A321neo

Flight evaluations with the first A319neo began on 31 March 2017.

Airbus’ best-selling single-aisle product line marked a key milestone in March with first flight of the A320neo Family’s shortest-fuselage member, the A319neo – which was equipped with CFM International LEAP-1A engines, one of the two powerplants available for the NEO jetliners.  

This five-hour trip – which kicked off the A319neo’s flight campaign – began from Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport in Germany, with the aircraft ultimately touching down at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters location.  

Another NEO-related achievement was reached in April with handover of the first-ever A321neo– which was delivered to U.S. airline Virgin America during a ceremony in Hamburg, Germany. The jetliner is powered by CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines.

Growing horizons

In June, Airbus put a spotlight on aviation's future with the release of its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF), which projects a worldwide need for some 35,000 new passenger aircraft between 2017 and 2034. 

This forecast – which serves as a reference for airlines, airports, investors, governments, non-government agencies and others – factors in such key market drivers as: demographics, trade, tourism flows, oil prices, environmental issues and competition. 

Also included in the 2017-2034 Global Market Forecast are results from Airbus' "Global Services Forecast." Among its projections is a global maintenance, repair & overhaul (MRO) market with a cumulative value of more than US$1.85 trillion during the next 20 years.

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