The A350 XWB: an Xtra green aircraft.

Meeting environmental standards and eco-efficiency targets have been high-level considerations throughout the A350 XWB programme.

Sustainability in the skies

Environmental performance is a key factor throughout the A350 XWB’s entire product lifecycle.

Fuel burn isn't the only reason the A350 XWB delivers a step change over current long-range twin-engine aircraft. In fact, reducing the jetliner’s environmental impact is carefully considered at all stages of design, production and in-service operation – a “win-win” strategy which is good for business and the environment.

Airbus has carefully designed this next-generation jetliner with these objectives in mind – from its aerodynamics, high-tech materials, advanced systems and avionics through the type of paint used on its interiors.

In addition, as part of Airbus’ sustainable fuels strategy, the A350 XWB is compatible with certified sustainable aviation fuels without changing the engine or aircraft architecture.


Reduced emissions, lower fuel consumption

The A350 XWB has been designed for “gate-to-gate” efficiency, which means lower noise and fewer emissions at every stage of the journey.

Airbus brings together the very latest in aerodynamics, design and advanced technologies in the A350 XWB to provide a 25 per cent step-change in fuel efficiency compared to its current long-range competitor. Simply put, every tonne of fuel saved means more than 3 tonnes of CO2 avoided.

Contributing to this performance are the A350 XWB’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, which have the lowest carbon emissions of any widebody powerplant. As over 70 per cent of the A350 XWB’s weight-efficient airframe is made from advanced materials, combining 53 per cent of composite structures with fully recyclable titanium and advanced aluminium alloys, the aircraft’s innovative all-new Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) fuselage also results in lower fuel consumption.

With the A350 XWB, Airbus has ensured the jetliner meets the most stringent environmental standards – exceeding current environmental regulations with margins to accommodate future requirements.

Less noise and energy consumption

With operations that are quieter than the latest worldwide requirements, the A350 XWB is a good neighbour.

Airbus engineers have developed or improved several functionalities that will be offered as standard on the A350 XWB. These include the Automatic Noise Abatement Departure Procedure (NADP), which optimises the thrust and flight path to reduce noise over crowded areas. This means considerably less noise around airports, mitigating noise nuisance in airport surrounds.

Further improving its environmental performance, Airbus has applied the latest technology in energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lighting on the A350 XWB – leading to overall reductions in both weight and energy consumption.


Fewer chemicals

The A350 XWB design favours environmentally-friendly materials in the aircraft’s manufacture.

One way of making a positive change was replacing the standard chrome-plating process with a thermal spray alternative. This dry process produces a dense metal coating, which gives the same properties as chrome plating – including wear resistance, corrosion resistance, low oxide content, low stress, low porosity, and high bonding strength to the base metal.

As another example, the A350 XWB painting process uses chromate-free primer paint. In addition, following best practices from the auto industry, Airbus uses a new base coat/clear coat system that requires less paint and less solvent. This painting procedure also means that less detergent is needed when washing the aircraft. To reduce the environmental impact of painting even further, Airbus will use – wherever possible – water-based paint inside the jetliner.
Vertical tail plane painting of MSN1 aircraft took place in Toulouse

Painting of the vertical tailplane for Airbus’ first A350 XWB – MSN001 – took place in Toulouse, France


New colours for the A350 XWB

The first aircraft to fly receives its Airbus livery in a painting process with a lower environmental footprint.

Efficient jet fuel

Sustainable aviation fuel research is a core tenet of Airbus' initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of air transport.

Airbus is researching sustainable fuels for aviation that could help reduce the A350 XWB's reliance on traditional jet fuel. The company is a catalyst in searching for sustainable solutions to produce affordable fuels in sufficient commercial quantities to face the environmental challenges for aviation.

Airbus leads this search through a global programme connecting raw material producers, refiners and airlines to form regional sustainable fuel “value chains” on every continent.

Setting new standards

The next-generation A350 XWB jetliner is taking Airbus’ commitment to reducing its environmental footprint to new levels on the ground, with the A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse, France providing a model for the company’s industrial facilities.

Designed along lean manufacturing principles, the final assembly line utilises natural light entering through glass panels and skylights to guarantee the best possible working conditions. In total, there are 6,300 square metres of windows to provide this light – an area equivalent to 24 tennis courts.

The building also is capable of producing more than half of its own energy with 22,000 square metres of solar panels on its roof, which generate enough energy to light 83,000 square metres of offices. In addition, an energy management system has been implemented that optimises the use of liquids and power according to the demand and working hours.

Biomass boiler

Airbus uses innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to meet its goals.

At the company’s Toulouse headquarters, Airbus has installed a high-tech biomass boiler – which is to save about 12,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, in line with Airbus's Blue5 targets to reduce total emissions by 50 per cent by 2020.

The boiler uses about 22,000 tonnes of wood each year, sourced from sustainable forests in France.


Eco-friendly wing factory

Airbus' focus on sustainable energy sources extends to the company's manufacturing sites.

The Broughton North factory in the UK, which assembles carbon fibre wings for the A350 XWB, features three photovoltaic arrays that track the sun to gather solar energy. Each array provides about 6.58kW of power, with the total output at about 22,000kW hours per year.

The building also is heated with a pump that extracts heat energy from the outside air and, through a refrigeration process, produces hot water for the under-floor heating system in the goods receipt area.

Finding new opportunities

The A350 XWB programme takes Airbus’ recycling initiatives to new heights.

As an example, a rainwater recovery system was installed at the A350 XWB building on Airbus’ Saint-Nazaire site. The results were immediate – within three months, Airbus collected more than 100 cubic metres of water at this facility.

This roof-based rainwater recovery system is just one way that Airbus is working to achieve the environmental targets of its Blue5 programme, which focuses on five areas – energy, waste, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), water and CO2 – and covers all Airbus sites and functions in Europe.

Marking another achievement during construction of the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line, between 8,000 and 10,000 cubic metres of existing materials from the site were recycled – including a former taxiway that was broken up and crushed for reuse.


Recycling carbon composites

With the A350 XWB, Airbus also has demonstrated the feasibility of recycling carbon composite materials on commercial aircraft for the first time. This recycling process was completely automated, from separating composite components, to the final extraction of the carbon fibres for recycling.

Ongoing research and development is underway with Airbus and several partners to further refine the technology and develop applications – to make composite recycling a reality.

Anticipating the aircraft's end-of-life

Airbus focused on a comprehensive environmentally-friendly approach during the A350 XWB’s development – covering every stage of the jetliner’s lifecycle from production to retirement from service.

As part of this strategy, Airbus is addressing ways to recycle commercial aircraft through its Tarmac Aerosave joint venture, which is the first company dedicated to lowering the environmental impact of dismantling end-of-life aircraft.

According to the project, up to 90 per cent of an aircraft’s weight could be recycled and more than 70 per cent of its components and materials reused or recovered through regulated recovery channels.

The joint venture was established by a consortium of Airbus and its partners and became operational in 2009. Located at Tarbes airport in southwestern France, Tarmac Aerosave applies experience from the Airbus-led LIFE-PAMELA (Process for Advanced Management of End-of-Life Aircraft) experimental project, which defined methods for the environmentally responsible disposal of retired jetliners – including recovery and potential reuse of equipment and material.