Head Of GECAS Echoes His Sentiments
aircraft leasing companies GECAS and ILFC are rivals almost as much
as their primary suppliers -- Boeing and Airbus -- are, the heads
of the two organizations came together Tuesday to send a common
message to Airbus: you need to completely rethink the A350.
International Lease Finance Corp. founder and CEO Steven
Udvar-Hazy (right) told attendees of the annual conference of
the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT)
Tuesday that he predicts the current version of the A350 -- based
heavily on the existing A330 architecture, but utilizing lighter
materials -- would sell poorly, and leave Boeing to dominate the
increasingly popular midsize widebody market with its upcoming
The answer, he said, is for Airbus to scrap the current A350
design and start over with a clean sheet of paper.
"That's probably an $8 billion to $10 billion decision. Airbus
is at a crossroads," said Udvar-Hazy, according to the Seattle
Times. "[But] Airbus will have to deal with this issue or accept a
silver medal instead of a gold."
The current A350 is "a good solid, airplane," he acknowledged,
with "elements that are leftovers from the early members of the
Airbus wide-body family." ILFC has ordered both the 787 and the
A350, though Udvar-Hazy said the expects the A350s to be
priced much lower,and hold less long-term residual value, than the
After his earlier speech promoting Airbus's bright future with
its current product line, Airbus sales guru John Leahy sat quietly
among stunned audience members as Udvar-Hazy gave his critique of
the upcoming airliner, that the European consortium hopes will take
a big bite out of Dreamliner sales.
In an interview after his presentation, Udvar-Hazy detailed why
he feels so strongly about the need to rethink the A350.
Udvar-Hazy said Airbus should go for an all-new design for the
A350 to replace not only the current A330, but also the larger A340
-- "a new family of aircraft that will be the backbone of their
wide-body midsize product line for the next 20 to 25 years."
To compete against Boeing, Airbus needs a new aircraft family
"that incorporates even more of the new technologies the 787 is
doing," Udvar-Hazy said, adding Airbus could pull it off by
incorporating a larger fuselage to at least match the dimensions of
the 787 interior, and use a sleeker, swept-back wing to give it the
787's speed and, presumably, range.
Udvar-Hazy called such an aircraft "a nightmare for Boeing,"
although he acknowledged "it's going to cost a lot of money and
it's going to cost delay."
His sentiments were later echoed by Henry Hubschmann, president
of number one aircraft lessor GECAS -- the commercial aircraft
sales arm of General Electric. The Times reports Hubschmann added
he expected to see some movement from Airbus on the matter within
the next three months.
To date, Boeing's 787 -- which will make its first flight two
years before the current A350 -- has outsold its European rival by
over 100 aircraft.
In an interview after the presentation, Leahy (right) maintained
there are no current plans to rethink the A350.
"I don't see anything imminent at this juncture," he said.