Airbus intends to make a bigger splash in the factory freighter space than its last attempt, and is covering all the bases with its new A350F.
The Toulouse-based planemaker confirmed to Cargo Facts that the A350F will have a maximum structural capacity of 109 tonnes at 4,700 nautical miles, or 92 tonnes of volumetric capacity at 6,000 nautical miles, with the higher-thrust Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines that also power the -1000.
Airbus also confirmed that the A350F will be 71 meters in length — essentially an A350-1000 with five fewer frames. Although Airbus and its partners are developing a multi-configuration cargo loading system to better accommodate outsized cargo pieces, the main deck will support up to thirty pallet positions — on par with a 747-400F and three more pallets than a 777F.
In comparison, Boeing’s current 777F is 63.73 meters long (209 feet 1 inch) and offers a max structural payload of around 107 tonnes over 4,970 nautical miles.
Entry into service for the A350F will be in 2025. Airbus declined to confirm at this point whether it has any launch customers.
Unlike the A330-200F and Elbe Flugzeugwerke’s (EFW) A330P2F conversions, the A350F will have its main cargo door behind the wings. Airbus told Cargo Facts that the door will be 146.5 inches wide and 124 inches high — almost identical in width to that of the 777F, but slightly higher.
The A350’s composite fuselage is composed of separate panels as opposed to barrel sections. Airbus said this means adding a cargo door is easier, while Head of Freighter Marketing Crawford Hamilton told Cargo Facts that carbon composite is robust and simple to repair, with standard fixes available for ramp rash and operational wear and tear, for example.
When CEO Guillaume Faury announced in July that the board had given the go-ahead for the program, he said the aircraft will be a derivative based predominantly on the longer A350-1000 with a design payload above 90 tonnes.
While the timing of this project coincides with a boom in freighter demand, the A350F has in fact been in the making for around five to six years, Bob Lange, senior vice president of business analysis and market forecast at Airbus, told Cargo Facts.
A recent panel of appraisers at Cargo Facts Symposium agreed that the A350F has the potential to see more than 100 orders.
Airbus’ last factory freighter, the A330-200F, emerged at the onset of the great financial crisis and was met with lackluster commercial success. The program delivered a total of thirty-eight units to eight customers. Of those deliveries, the majority went directly to carriers, while only eight units were delivered to two lessors: five to BOC Aviation and three to Aircastle, according to Airbus’ October order and delivery log. With the A350F, Airbus is targeting greater participation from lessors.
Lange also lamented the decision to base the A330F on the -200 variant rather than the more voluminous -300 variant.
With Boeing evaluating the timeline of a 777XF launch and the Dubai Airshow around the corner, the large production widebody segment will for the first time feature competing products from both major manufacturers as the 2028 deadline for production aircraft to meet the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) CO2 emissions standard approaches.