After much speculation, Airbus has announced the freighter variant of the A350, called the A350F.
Airbus is confident that the A350 freighter will be successful, and that they will not repeat the strategic error in developing its previous widebody freighter – the A330-200F – of which Airbus has sold only 38. The crucial miscalculation, in that case, was believing that customers would value the range of the A330-200F over its heavy-freight capability. As a result, Airbus had chosen to base its A330 freighter on the longer-range -200 passenger aircraft rather than the larger -300, which turned out to be a mistake.
The American leasing company Air Lease Corporation (ALC) is reported to be the first customer of the A350F, signing a letter of intent for seven aircraft. Deliveries are expected to commence by 2026.
Airbus says that the new A350F will carry the same volume as the Boeing 747F, and three tonnes more payload than the 777F, while being 20 tonnes lighter in empty weight, and nearly 7 meters longer than the 777F.
It is widely speculated that most customers who already operate the A350 passenger variant will be seen to operate the A350F as the two variants share 100% engine parts commonality and 99% airframe commonality.
In a segment dominated by Boeing, this is an exciting development for the world of cargo aircraft!
An infographic of the new aircraft is shown below: