Which Came First – The Airbus A350 Or Boeing 787?

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The A350 and 787 are two of Airbus and Boeing’s best-selling widebody aircraft. Tailored to a new point-to-point market, the twin-engine aircraft have made their mark on the industry. Introduced a few years apart, both planes have had a long and interesting history of development. So which came first: the A350 or 787?

Airbus A350

The A350 project began as Airbus’ response to the 787. The project officially kicked off in 2004, when Airbus confirmed that it had a new project in the works to compete with Boeing.

However, none of the initial designs made it too far, with airlines not convinced by the proposed 250-300 seater A350-800s and -900 variants based on the fuselage of the A330. The rejection of these designs sent Airbus back to the drawing board for a brand-new aircraft model.

It was only at the Farnborough Airshow in 2006 that Airbus unveiled what we know as the A350, the A350XWB (Xtra-Wide-Body), featuring a new design and higher seating capacity. The A350 became quite the hit among airlines, racking up hundreds of orders in its first year due to its unique configuration.

The plane suffered some delays during its design and production process, but Airbus finally chose to opt for a composite material design (the same as the 787). Two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines were chosen as the engines for the aircraft. Overall, the entire development project is estimated to have cost Airbus well over $15bn as of production in 2013, according to the BBC.

The first flight of the A350-900 took place on 14th June, 2013, a full decade after the plane was first conceptualized. Qatar Airways was the launch customer of the A350 (having ordered it in 2005 before the redesign), taking delivery on 22nd December, 2014. 

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing Flight Test & Evaluation, Boeing Field, Seattle, Flight Test, 787-10 Dreamliner, ZC001, Test 004-04, Flutter, puffy clouds, Eastern washington

Boeing had been considering a variety of designs as early as the 1990s to replace the successful 747 and 767 families of aircraft. After years of potential designs, Boeing finally settled on what is now known as the 787 (then 7E7) in 2003. This plane would be a twin-engine, twin-aisle aircraft, a break from the legacy of the 747. After a public poll, Boeing settled on naming the aircraft the 787 Dreamliner, which has now become iconic around the world.

The first order for the Dreamliner came in 2004 by All Nippon Airlines (ANA) for 50 aircraft, split into 787-9 and 787-8. Deliveries were initially scheduled for late 2008, far ahead of the A350. The plane was all set to become the future of aviation, with its lightweight composite design, efficiency, and range.

However, Boeing struggled with well-documented delays, pushing back the first flight of the aircraft late into 2008 and deliveries deeper into 2009. The issues arose due to Boeing’s use of new composite materials, software, and bottom-top supply chain, which saw contractors make critical parts.

The first 787-8 Dreamliner took to the skies on December 15th, 2009, nearly two years behind schedule. After a lengthy certification process, ANA took delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner on September 25, 2011.

Fusion x64 TIFF File

Boeing wins, but not by much

The Boeing 787 did come first, compared to the Airbus A350. While it did enter service earlier, Boeing had years more of design time compared to Airbus, which it lost over numerous delays. However, the 787 still remains the best selling aircraft among the two, with over 1,500 orders to the A350s 930 orders. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which aircraft is best!

S: Simple Flying

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