Singapore Airshow 2018: Airbus showcases its latest wide-body aircraft

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Three aircraft will make their debut at the biennial event - the Airbus 350-1000; Embraer E190-E2, dubbed as the 'Profit Hunter'; and US Marine Corp latest-generation F-35B fighter jets.
An Airbus A350-1000 is seen on display, ahead of the Singapore Airshow 2018. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Airbus is showcasing its twin-engine A350-1000 at the Singapore Airshow this week, as it looks to garner more interest in the company's latest wide-body aircraft.

This is the first time the 366-seat jetliner - a longer variant of the 325-seat A350-900 which has already been flown commercially - has come toSingapore.

Airbus said in a press conference on Monday (Feb 5) that it has received 169 orders for the twin-aisle A350-1000 from 11 customers, including Japan Airlines, British Airways and Etihad, as of December (2017).

With a range of 14,750 km and more seating, the aircraft is ideal for busy long-haul routes for carriers in the booming Asia Pacific market, Airbus said.

"We see an exploding Trans-Pacific market. A lot of people are willing to fly between the American continent - it is not limited to North America - into Asia. This is where the trend is. This is exactly what the A350-1000 is designed to do," Airbus marketing director Francois Obe told reporters at the Singapore Airshow.

Singapore Airlines is currently the biggest customer of A350-1000's sibling, the A350-900, with 67 orders, of which 20 planes are in operation.

Singapore is the seventh stop of a "world tour" on which Airbus is taking its A350-1000 test aircraft. It has also showcased the plane - with a fully functional cabin - in cities such as Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei. After Singapore, the plane will be flown to Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Manila.

More than 50 per cent of the A350-1000's airframe is composite material, making it lighter. Airbus touts it as burning 25 per cent less fuel than a competitor's equivalent model.

But the A350-1000 is off to a bumpy start, with the delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways delayed from late last year (2017), to later this month (Feb).

The delay is due to issues with installing the business class seats, which have a more complex configuration required by the airline, said a Reuters report. Asked about the delay, Mr Obe said: "It's not up to us to release delivery dates, it's traditionally a privilege of the customer. What we want is to deliver an aircraft that really meets the high level of expectations of Qatar Airways."

Last year (2017), Cathay Pacific and United Airlines also swapped initial orders of A350-1000s in favour of the A350-900 variant.

An analysis by the Centre for Aviation (Capa) attributed this to several reasons, including airlines becoming risk-adverse and opting for smaller aircraft, as well as competition from existing Boeing 777s and new 777Xs.

Still, Capa said the plane "could see a surge of orders in coming years for new growth and as airlines get closer to (the) replacement of existing aircraft".

The A350-1000 is on static display at the Singapore Airshow until Thursday (Feb 8).

The Airshow, held at the Changi Exhibition Centre, officially opens on Tuesday (Feb 7), and will host 65 of the top 100 global aerospace companies such as Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Over 1,000 companies from 50 countries and regions will be involved in the four trade days. More than 130,000 visitors are expected, most of them on Feb 10 and 11 when it is open to the public.

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