And the winner is…………. Airbus!

Qantas has announced the preference for Project Sunrise after a period of tough competition between Airbus’ A350 XWB and Boeing‘s 777X. Airbus has come out on top as Qantas announced today that it has preferred the A350 XWB for the ultra long haul flights over the 777X. Although this decision is not final and no orders have been placed yet, Qantas’ newsroom reported that it will give the final Go/No-Go decision in the March of 2020. As of now, test flight for the Qantas’ Project Sunrise are on-going in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner to test for various factors associated with ultra-long haul flights.

What exactly is Project Sunrise? Click on THIS LINK to read about it.

The winner

The Airbus A350-1000 will be selected if Qantas decides to go on. It will be slightly modified with an additional fuel tank for the extra range that it requires. The A350-1000 is powered by the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines which have been proven in reliability and efficiency as well as performance. So far, no final orders have been given but Qantas has hinted that it is working closely with Airbus to draw up a contract of 12 of the Project Sunrise A350-1000’s should the deal go on in 2020.

According to Qantas’ newsroom Airbus has agreed to extend the deadline that will confirm the delivery slots from February 2020 to March of 2020. This gives a window to Qantas to iron out some industrial wrinkles associated with Project Sunrise including negotiations with the pilots’ union. Qantas plans to launch the flights in 2023.

Quoting Qantas’ newsroom:

“After detailed evaluation of the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, Qantas has selected the A350-1000 as the preferred aircraft if Sunrise proceeds. This aircraft uses the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years. Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for Sunrise routes.”

The Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is very optimistic, both regarding Project Sunrise and the A350’s capability. He said:

“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience. The aircraft and engine combination is next generation technology but it’s thoroughly proven after more than two years in service. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long haul routes if we want it to”

Why not the 777X?

2019 has been a rough year for Boeing overall. The 777X program is facing delays. In September, Boeing had to suspend load testing of the aircraft fuselage when a door blew out during a stress test. Recently in November, the fuselage of the 777X itself split dramatically during a load test. If Qantas wants Project Sunrise to get by 2023, it needed an airplane that will be ready by that date. And the A350 is already a proven aircraft and ready to go.

In any case, Qantas did not comment on why it chose the A350 over the 777. The CEO said:

“Can I thank both Airbus and Boeing for the tremendous effort they have put into Project Sunrise. It was a tough choice between two very capable aircraft, made even harder by innovation from both manufacturers to improve on what they had already spent years designing”

Now it’s all on how Qantas navigates through the remaining regulatory and industrial hurdles. If they clear that, we could be witnessing the start of the ultra-long haul era.

 

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