Back to Farnborough. It was dominated by Airbus’s new A350XWB. We’re cautiously optimistic about this. Going after the 777 is way smarter than going after the heart of the 787 market, although a successful 787-10 could present serious problems. By 2012, the 777 will be vulnerable. Creating the ambitious new Airbus plane will seriously tax Airbus/EADS’s resources, particularly with the ongoing A380 monster cash suck (and considering that the original A350 contract prices likely won’t be revised upwards). That 2012 service entry looks aggressive and perhaps a tad unrealistic, but this announcement was a good start. There’s only one way to eat a rhinoceros—one bite at a time.
But most of all, Airbus doesn’t have a choice. They could wait a few years until they get the right mix of new enabling technologies and leapfrog the 787, but that would mean spending 2009-2016 or beyond as a niche player, with just narrowbodies and the low volume A380. Without the new plane, Airbus would have nothing to sell between 200 and 500 seats. So Airbus is doing the right thing, an impression endorsed by the XWB’s first blue chip airline order from Singapore, announced at the show’s end.