Is An Airbus A350 Freighter Getting Closer To Reality?

Airbus has long been rumored to be working on a freighter derivative of the A350. This A350F would go head-to-head with the popular 777F and would be the European giant’s biggest foray into the market. So are we getting closer to an A350F becoming a reality?

Big news

According to Aviation Week, Airbus is currently considering building a new variant of the A350 to serve as its flagship cargo jet. This variant would be known as the A350-950F, signaling that the jet would be sized between the two existing variants.

The proposed -950F would be roughly 230 feet in length, right in between the 219ft of the smaller A350-900 and 242ft of the larger A350-1000. This optimally sized fuselage would allow the aircraft to carry more pallets while still being capable of flying long distances.

The A350-950F would feature much of the technology of the larger -1000, including its powerful engines. Photo: Airbus

While the size of the A350F might be in between the two existing passenger jets, the variant will heavily rely on the -1000. The freighter will use the Rolly-Royce Trent XWB-97s and a six-wheel landing gear, both common to the larger A350. This would make the freighter one of the most efficient and longest-range in the market.

These changes suggest that Airbus will not wait for a newer A350neo (powered by GE engines) to announce the freighter model. Given the circumstances at present, there might be a good reason to move faster.

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Hot market

While the A350F was first proposed back in 2007, it has become more heavily discussed in the last year. This is due to the strong growth of the cargo market since the pandemic hit, with IATA estimating that freight demand has risen 9% in February 2021 compared to the same time in 2019.

However, much of this increased demand has been won over by Boeing with its lineup of the 777F and 747-8Fs. These aircraft have seen increased deliveries and usage since the pandemic hit, with the American giant delivering 20 777Fs last year. Meanwhile, Airbus is currently only offering the A330-200F and some P2F (passenger to freight) conversions.

Boeing has dominated the widebody freighter market for decades with its successful 767F, 777F, and 747F programs. Photo: Boeing

Seeing this growing demand, Airbus is looking to make its freighter A350 available as soon as possible too. The specification of the A350-950F is also being crafted to compete with both the 777F and 777X freighter variants, ensuring the jet isn’t left behind in a few years’ time. But when could we actually see the cargo Airbus jet in the sky?

When will we see it?

While there is much excitement and interest from airlines around an A350F, development takes time. Estimates suggest that the first A350F will only take to the skies around 2025 if Airbus green light’s the idea by the end of this year. Until the aircraft actually makes it to customers, Boeing will continue its market dominance for the foreseeable future.

What do you think about the proposed A350-950F? Can it compete with Boeing’s offerings? Let us know in the comments!

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