Something else that happened while I was away (yes, I am catching up, can you tell?), the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB made it’s first test flight on February 18th, on the wing of an A380. The Trent XWB is a new engine being developed to power Airbus’ forthcoming A350 XWB wide body twin airliner, which is set to compete against the high-end of the B787 family, and the low-end of the B777 family.
XWB is a silly marketing thing which stands for eXtra Wide Body. Quick history: Boeing introduced plans for the B787 (after dropping plans for the Sonic Cruiser). Airbus dismissed it as no big deal and said they’d just update the A330. This didn’t go over well with airlines and aircraft lessors, so Airbus steadily revised their stance to increasingly radical updates to the A330, finally giving in and admitting they needed a new aircraft, the A350, to compete. But to try to give it more pizzazz they highlighted the design’s fuselage width with the ‘XWB’. Rolls-Royce jumped on the bandwagon with their engine naming, instead of giving this new model of a Trent family a number like the others.
So, right, the Trent XWB is a new engine being developed specifically for the A350. The A350 is sized between the B787 and B777, overlapping with the larger B787 models, and the smaller B777 models. Boeing and Airbus do that – rather than compete head to head, they stagger their lines. The A320 family overlaps the B737 extensively, but is slightly larger overall. But the single-aisle market is so large that they can afford to split it more directly.
The wide body market is a different story, there aren’t as many sales to go around and no one wins direct shootouts (see DC-10 vs. L-1011). The B767 is the first rung in the twin-aisle ladder, and then the A330/A340 pair are next. Then the B777, the B747, and the A380 fill in the next market segments. The B787 is replacing the B767 in the Boeing lineup, but will be larger – more directly competing with the A330/A340 market. But the A330 is being replaced by the A350, which is also larger, maintaining the staggered pattern. (The A340 is being killed off already due to low sales.)
There’s nothing dramatic in the video, which is good since dramatic test videos mean something bad happened. But it does provide for some nice eye candy of the A380 in flight. As much as I tend to prefer Boeing aircraft, it would be nice to fly on an A380 sometime. And I’m sure the A350 will be a remarkable aircraft when it flies as well. (JetBlue is my favorite domestic airline, and they only fly E190s and A320s.)