Is The Airbus A350F The Cargo Airplane Of The Future? (Part 4)

| About: Airbus Group (EADSF)

In order to maintain and expand market share both Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Airbus (OTCPK:EADSF) came up with new airplanes. The Boeing 787 saw its first commercial flight in October 2011, but has been coping with battery problems and other problems lately. The Airbus A350 has made its maiden flight, but still is awaiting its first commercial flight.

The Airbus A350 comes in 5 variants, each should be able to compete with its Boeing counterparts:



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Airbus Vs. Boeing: Who has the airplane of the future?



Airbus Vs. Boeing: Who has the airplane of the future? (Part 2)



Airbus Vs. Boeing: Who has the airplane of the future? (Part 3)






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* Subject of this article

In my previous articles I compared the passenger variants of the A350 with their Boeing counterparts. In this article I will compare the Airbus A350-900F with the Boeing 777-200F and the A330-200F.

In one of my earlier articles about the cargo market, I marked Airbus as the big 'loser' having only the Airbus A330 as a modern airplane on the market and no active conversion programs (as the A330 is a very popular passenger airplane).

In cooperation with ST Aerospace (Singapore) Airbus now offers a conversion program for the Airbus A330-200, the first converted A330s should enter service in 2017. According to Airbus the conversion program does not squeeze orders for the A330F since both airplanes have a different price point and customer base.

Since Airbus expects that in the future cargo market there will be place for 900 converted airplanes, the A330P2F program is a smart step, maybe even a vital step Airbus had to take to expand its market share on the cargo airplane market.

One of the advantages that Airbus has is that 50% of the cargo airplanes that probably will be out phased in the coming decade is an Airbus, meaning that if customers are satisfied by the conversion programs of the A300 and A310 they might be willing to use the A330CF (Converted Freighter), in other words the A330P2F program comes just in times to profit from life cycle end for the A310 and A300.

With the Airbus A350-900F Airbus brings a replacement for the Airbus A300 and already has a replacement for the Airbus A330. Additionally the A350-900F is the main competitor of the Boeing 777-200F.

Airbus A350-900F

Airbus A330-200F

Difference %

Boeing 777F

Difference %

OEW [t]*






Cargo [tonnes]






Cargo/OEW [-]












Range [km]






Fuel/km [L/km]






Fuel/km/tonnes [L/km/t]






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*It should be noted I used the manufacturer empty weight, because no number for OEW could be found

Comparing the Airbus A350F with the 330F yields a couple conclusions:

  • The Airbus A350F can transport more cargo (25 tonnes)
  • The OEW is higher, but I think this is due to the use of the manufacturer empty weight, therefore the payload/OEW fraction might be slightly off as well, the higher the cargo/OEW fraction the more cargo the airplane can carry per unit weight (of the plane). As can be seen the cargo/OEW-ratio is 23% lower compared to Airbus A330-200F, meaning that lifting capability of the Airbus A350-900F is less than that of the 330F. On the other side it has to be noted that a stronger structure is needed to transport 60% more fuel.
  • The increased fuel capacity allows the airplane to fly 20% farther with more cargo on board.
  • The specific fuel properties are better.

Conclusion Airbus A350-900F vs. Airbus A330-200F: The Airbus A350-900F is able to carry more cargo over a longer distance

Comparing the Airbus A350F with the 777F yields the following conclusions:

  • The A350F is a 'lighter' structure, but can lift less payload
  • Range capabilities are about equal
  • Specific fuel properties are similar

Conclusion Airbus A350-900F vs. Boeing 777F: The Airbus A350-900F is able to carry less load to over a longer distance. Given that the 777-concept is already 1-2 decades old, I don't think the Airbus A350-900F is a revolutionary cargo airplane.

Airbus' first 'modern' cargo airplane the A330-200F is not a big seller and probably never will be. The A350-900F is not an airplane with mind blowing characteristics either, but I do believe that this airplane has potential (if it ever will be taken into production).

The A350-900F can be a seller for the following reasons:

1. Duopoly

For airliners it is vital to keep the duopoly that Airbus and Boeing have in place to profit from big discounts. On the cargo market the newer aircraft are being delivered by Boeing. To keep in place the duopoly airlines might order the freighter version of the A350 as well.

2. Replacement of the old Airbus A300/A310 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11

At this point there are quite some old Airbus freighters flying around that need replacement in the coming years. If cargo airlines are satisfied with the performance of these old freighters, they might want to place orders for the A350-900F. This would give them a more fuel efficient and less costly (maintenance) airplane.

Also the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 might be phased out in the coming decade. Since both airplanes can hold about the same amount of cargo, the A350-900F seems like a good alternative.

3. Future market demand

Next to orders for phasing out old aircraft, airplanes will be needed to expand cargo fleet to cover the increased demand for cargo transport.

Source: CNN Money

Looking at the performance of Airbus (blue, +78%) and Boeing (green, +84%) it can be seen that both companies did quite well. Since the market outlook for the aviation industry is quite good, I think both companies have upward potential for 2014. The Airbus A350-900F will not specifically add to the stock price of Airbus, but the family as a whole certainly will.


Although the Airbus A350-900F has not yet been launched officially and there are no orders for it (yet), I think this freighter could be a very strong airplane on the market.

With the Airbus A350-900F Airbus finally seems to be able to compete with the Boeing freighters. The A350F has characteristics similar to that of the 777F. It should be noted that if Airbus wants to take market share on the cargo market, it should try to launch the A350F as soon as possible.

For the coming years the Boeing 777F will soar through the skies, without serious competition!

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.