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Almost three years after its entry into service, the Airbus A350 is an increasingly familiar sight. With its trademark drooping nose, “bandit mask” around the flight deck windows and sleek blended winglets, it’s easy to spot the world’s newest long-haul aircraft at airports all over. Like its direct competitor, the Boeing 787, it’s now flown by airlines landing on all inhabited continents.
Lufthansa, Air Mauritius, Singapore Airlines, Delta and LATAM all operate the basic model, the 300-seat A350-900. This year, we’ll see the debut in commercial service of the larger variant: the A350-1000.
Qatar Airways will be the launch customer of the A350-1000, earning the distinction of being the first in the world to operate both variants of the A350. The two jets share 95% common systems, part numbers, and also the same type rating, meaning A350-900 pilots can also fly the 1000.
So how will you be able to tell which is which? In schedules, you will generally see the -900 indicated as 359 or A359, while the larger variant will be 35K or A35K. But in the wild, when you see one pull up at a gate, how do you know?
First things first: the A350-1000 is visibly longer, by 23 feet or 7 meters, as you can see below.
The other obvious giveaway of the A350-1000 is the landing gear. To accommodate the higher maximum weight of the bigger sibling, 308 metric tons versus 280 (or 679,000 lbs versus 617,000), the main landing gear has an extra wheel.
So if you see an A350 with two pairs of two wheels on each side on the main landing gear, it’s a 900:
And if you see one with three wheels in a row, two pairs of three on each side, you’ve spotted a 1000:
To fit the longer triple-bogie gear, Airbus had to stretch the main gear bay to 4.7m from 4.1m (15.4ft from 13.4ft). And while there are more wheels on the A350-1000, they’re actually smaller: 22 inches diameter versus 23 on the main landing gear. The twin nose wheels are 16 inches in both cases.
If you feel like really geeking out, you could count the windows. Not necessarily all of them, but those between the third and fourth door will give away the -1000, which has 22 compared to 17 on its shorter stablemate.
The A350-1000 also has a greater distance between the nose gear, and the main landing gear, meaning passengers seated far up front will barely be able to feel the main landing gear touch down, at least if it’s a smooth landing.
Here’s a diagram showing the differences between the two at a glance.
Both share the same engines, the Rolls Royce Trent XWB, but those installed on the A350-1000 have a higher take-off thrust of 97,000 lb each, versus 93,000lb on the smaller -900 version. The -1000 can carry a lot more fuel since it has a much bigger tank in the center of the fuselage, carrying a total of 158,791 liters of fuel or almost 42,000 gallons, versus 140,795 liters or about 37,000 gallons — but it can’t fly nonstop as long as the -900, because it’s heavier. It still goes really, really far, though, with a maximum range of 9,150 miles versus 9,320 for the smaller version.
That larger size and increased seating is the main attraction for airlines. The longer fuselage enables an extra 40 seats on average, based on a typical configuration.
For A350-1000 launch customer Qatar Airways, the aircraft will feature 46 Qsuites in business class and 281 economy seats. That’s an extra 10 business cass seats and 34 economy seats compared to the smaller A350-900.
In the cockpit, everything is the same, with six big screens (operated by trackball and mouse, not touch.)
In other areas of the aircraft, the A350-1000 has a greater cargo capacity, compared with the A350-900. You can’t see that from the outside, but on the A350-900, there is space for 20 cargo containers in front of the wings, and 16 behind:
On the A350-1000, there’s space for an extra four cargo containers up front, and another four in the rear:
Finally, if you should find yourself behind an A350, beware: with its more powerful engines, the -1000 has a so-called “danger area” behind it that’s much larger. For an A350-900 with engines running, it’s 442 m (483 yards)…
…but for the A350-1000, it’s 10 percent bigger, at 488 metres (533 yards.)
Know before you go.
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