What An Airbus A350 Freighter Would Look Like

Qatar recently placed an order for five Boeing 777 freighters at the Paris Air Show. These aircraft will be used to expand the airlines already impressive cargo network, with a focus on routes across the Pacific. Airbus also has an aircraft to rival the Boeing 777, the A350, but does not yet offer a cargo variant.

Could a modified A350-1000 be the freighter plane of the future? Photo: lynothehammer1978 via Flickr

What would a cargo A350 look like? Let’s have a explore.

Why cargo?

One market that is incredibly lucrative for Airlines is cargo. Cargo doesn’t need to be fed, doesn’t need entertainment, doesn’t need space and doesn’t need to be kept warm. But it does want to get there fast, and is willing to pay more than a passenger ticket to get there.

Cargo is the perfect customer for airlines and a major reason why many airlines deploy freighter fleets to touch this lucrative market. Some large freighter fleets include:

  • Qatar Airways: The carrier has 24 cargo aircraft, including eight Airbus A330-200F, two Boeing 747-8F and 15 Boeing 777F. The five new Boeing 777F’s will greatly expand their capacity also.
  • Singapore Airlines: This airline operates seven Boeing 747-400Fs
  • IAG: The owner of British Airways and Iberia operates its own specific cargo fleet utilizing cargo aircraft of each airline that it owns.

These fleet examples don’t include all-cargo airlines like FedEx or DHL.

As you can see, the biggest aircraft that Airbus provides to carriers is the A330 freighter variant. An A380 freighter was proposed and got interest from the airline industry, but ultimately did not succeed.

“There are currently four active production freighter programs: Airbus offers the A330-200F, while Boeing offers the 767-300F, 777F and 747-8F.”Cargo Facts.

So, perhaps it’s time that Airbus offers an A350F variant.

What would an A350 freighter look like?

The most likely candidate for Airbus would be an A350-1000F.

Based on the popular A350-1000 variant, it would have the fuel efficiency and space to beat off current market offerings.

Qatar A350-1000
Qatar A350-1000. Photo: Wikimedia

Here is how it would match up:

  • Airbus A350-1000F – 68 t (150,000 lb) to a range of 16,100 km (8,700 nmi)
  • Boeing 747-8F -132 t (292,400 lb) to a range of 7,630 km (4,120 nmi)

The Boeing 747-8F can carry more payload than the A350-1000 (which is currently configured with seats and more, so that number is to be taken with a grain of salt) but the A350 easily flies twice as far and opens up many more cargo routes.

And it goes without saying that the fuel-efficient A350 would easily trump any other freighter on the market (well, until Boeing releases the 777X freighter).

Who would buy it?

There is actually one airline that is interested in this aircraft… Cathay Pacific.

Currently, the airline operates a cargo fleet of 21 aircraft, all Boeing 747 variants. With 46 A350s either on order or currently flying for the fleet, Cathay Pacific is very interested to replace their aging cargo fleet with this type.

Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific Cargo 747. Photo: Wikimedia

There is a market niche for such an aircraft. In the future there will be more need for twin-engine freighters,” Nick Rhodes, the Hong Kong-based carrier’s director and general manager of cargo, said to A350 Blog back in 2013.

What do you think of the A350 freighter? Should airlines buy it? Let us know in the comments.