12 April, 2022

Four cargo Airbus A350Fs for Air France-KLM

Air France-KLM has finalised its order with Airbus for four new generation A350F freighters, following the earlier commitment announced in December 2021. The freighters are destined to increase Air France’s cargo capacity with the most efficient and sustainable cargo aircraft available in the market. 

The A350F is based on the world's most modern long-range leader, the A350. The aircraft will feature a large main deck cargo door and a fuselage length optimised for cargo operations. Over 70% of the airframe is made of advanced materials resulting in a 30 tonnes lighter take-off weight, which together with efficient Rolls-Royce engines generate an advantage of at least 20% lower fuel burn and CO2 over its current closest competitor. With a 109 tonnes payload capability (+3t payload / 11% more volume than its competition), the A350F serves all cargo markets (Express, general cargo, special cargo…) and is in the large freighter category the only new generation freighter aircraft ready for the enhanced ICAO CO₂ emissions standards.

“Airlines now have a choice, and we salute Air France joining those going for the A350F’s step-change in efficiency and sustainability for the cargo operations of the future. We are gratified by the wave of early adopters who, like Air France, see the economics and environmental signature of the A350s as standing out versus alternatives, past, existing and future. Merci Air France.” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International. 

The A350F offers unbeatable efficiency and sustainability in terms of fuel burn, CO2 emissions and economics, and it will be the first new freighter to meet the latest ICAO CO2 requirements.
The A350F offers nose-to-tail innovation with advanced materials  (including carbon fibre and titanium) for reduced maintenance and the highest operational availability in its class.
The A350F offers superior economics due to the best combination of payload, volumetric capacity and range.
The A350F can be seamlessly integrated into airline fleets, having spares and tooling commonality with the A350 passenger aircraft for airframe and engines, as well as “same type rating” for flight crews and ground technicians.
The A350F is the future-proof choice for the large widebody freighter market.


The A350F is much lighter and less maintenance-intensive than its competitors, largely thanks to its structure which comprises over 70% advanced materials such as composites, titanium and modern aluminium alloys. Notably, the wings, the centre wing box and also the fuselage panels are manufactured mostly with composites. These materials choices result in a lighter, stiffer, stronger, more capable and cost-efficient aircraft, while increasing resistance to corrosion and fatigue for reduced maintenance requirements. In fact, Airbus calculates that the A350F will provide its customers around 65 more revenue days due to less maintenance downtime versus the proposed 777-8F over 16 years, thanks to the A350F’s clean-sheet advanced materials and well-integrated systems. Moreover, these predictions are realistic given the proven track record of the A350-900 and -1000 in service today which are delivering more operational availability for extra revenue for operators.

 On top of the low fuel consumption which already contributes to major savings, the A350F’s unbeatable economics are also built on the three tonnes additional structural payload (for a total of 109 tonnes) compared with the 777F. Moreover, to do the same job as its current competitor, the A350F will weigh around 28 tonnes less at take-off due to its much lighter composite fuselage & centre wing box, while burning around 20% less trip fuel. This also means that operators of Airbus’ new A350F freighter will benefit from lower landing and navigation charges.

As for the proposed 777-8F, while the current estimates suggests that it could offer six percent more volume and seven tonnes more payload than the A350F, this would come with a hefty burden of at least 32 additional metric tonnes (32,000kgs) of take-off weight (Airbus’ initial estimate) – which increases fuel burn, CO2 emissions and airport charges.

The A350F’s higher running-load capability over more of the floor will provide superior pallet loading flexibility and C-of-G management. In particular, its operators will be able to utilise the full 6.8 tonnes maximum certified limit for a 96x125 pallet for 20 of the 30 pallet positions, whereas the 777F only offers six pallet positions with a 6.8t pallet capability – with all the rest being limited to a maximum loading of only around four tonnes where the floor loading is more limited.

Mention should also be made of the A350F’s composite main-deck-cargo door (MDCD). With a clear opening measuring 3.72m by 3.16m, it allows loading on board of all new large turbofan engines. Meanwhile, the flexibility of the main-deck cargo-loading system (CLS) inside the aircraft provides for up to six positions for these engines to be directly latched, instead of using straps. The use of latches not only minimises turnaround time, but also frees-up space adjacently for two extra pallets.

Another key requirement when defining the A350F was the capability to fly from Hong Kong to Anchorage – an industry benchmark mission as it is the most often flown cargo route in the world – at full payload. Accordingly, the A350F with 109t max structural payload can carry it over 4,700nm to enable this route, and do so with the lowest possible fuel burn and proportionally reduced CO2 emissions.

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