Dubai Airshow Memo: Airbus Aims At 109 Ton Payload For A350F

Credit: Airbus

DUBAI—There has been much speculation about when Airbus might announce the first orders for the freighter version of the A350, including whether that might happen at the Dubai Airshow.

After all, the aircraft was launched earlier this year without an order and is due to enter service in 2025, filling a painful gap in the Airbus product line.

On the first day of the show, Airbus shared more new technical details of the aircraft. It is targeting a 109-ton maximum payload. That compares to 103 tons for the current 777F. Boeing is expected to launch a freighter version of the 777X soon but has not released performance details. Given that it will be a larger aircraft than the 777-200-based 777F, its maximum take-off weight and maximum payload are expected to also be significantly higher.

According to Crawford Hamilton, head of freighter marketing at Airbus, the A350F will feature a maximum take-off weight of 317 tons, compared to 319 tons for the A350-1000. Airbus will take five frames out of the front fuselage to shorten the A350 by 3.17 m. At maximum payload, the aircraft will have a range of 4,700 nm. For international express cargo missions and with payload limited to 92 tons, the range rises to around 6,000 nm.

The cargo door will be 3.7-m wide and 3.14-m high and, unusually, will be positioned at the rear. Center of gravity as well as ease of loading considerations have influenced that decision. “We believe it is impossible now to tilt the aircraft,” Hamilton said. Containers and pallets will be loaded through the rear but moved forward to add weight there first. A position over the center wingbox will be able to hold a 30-ton pallet. Airbus also designed the door and the main cargo deck to be able to hold all large aircraft engines including the General Electric GE-9X powering the 777X.

The cargo version will feature the same crew-rest area in the crown of the front fuselage as the passenger version. There will be seats for couriers just ahead of the barrier wall. Airbus will remove doors 2-4 on both sides on the aircraft and all windows except three.

According to Hamilton, the aircraft will have the same volume as the 747-400F and -ERF and somewhat more range, but around 6-7 tons less payload. Replacing aging 747s is a key part of the A350F market, Airbus believes.

Bringing a large-capacity long-haul freighter to market has been a recent strategic priority for Airbus to end the long monopoly Boeing has enjoyed with the 747 and 777.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.