Airbus A350 XWB – the Future of Finnair’s long-distance travel
The Airbus A350 XWB airliner was designed to compete with the American Boeing 787 Dreamline. The A350 was developed already in the mid-2000’s, based on the older A330 model, but after the Dreamliner was introduced in 2006 Airbus announced that the aircraft would be fully redesigned. The new airliner, named A350 XWB (eXtra Wide Body) flew its maiden flight in 2013. The Airbus A350 XWB is designed to compete especially with ecology and low fuel consumption.
Finnair is acquiring a total of 19 297-seated Airbus A350-900 XWB airliners into its fleet between 2015 – 2023, to replace the older Airbus A340 aircraft on long-range flights. The first Finnair A350 XWB arrived to the Helsinki Airport in October 2015. Currently the airline has seven A350 aircraft in its fleet, operating mainly on routes between Europe and Asia.
From American to European aircraft
After the Second World War, the fleet of the Aero Ltd. consisted mainly of American aircraft. The old, German Junkers-planes were replaced with Douglas DC-3 -aircraft, purchased from the U.S. Army. Douglas – later McDonnell-Douglas – became Finnair’s main aircraft supplier especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s, during the directorship of Gunnar Korhonen. The airline purchased several DC-8’s and DC-10’s for long-distance flights and DC-9’s for shorter routes. These aircraft and their successors were operated until 2000’s.
At the time, American manufacturers – especially Boeing and (McDonnell-)Douglas – dominated the commercial aircraft industry. In the 1960’s, however, European manufacturers decided to start developing a wide-body airliner as a joint effort, as a response to their American competitors. Subsequently, the French Aérospatiale and West-German Deutsche Aerospace formed the Airbus consortium in 1970, in which the British Hawker Siddeley, the Dutch Fokker and the Spanish CASA later joined. The Airbus factory is located in Toulouse, France, although most of the components are manufactured by subcontractors all around Europe. The Finnish Patria, among others, produces components for Airbus.
The first aircraft designed by Airbus, the Airbus A300 flew its first flight in 1972. It was the first twin-engine wide-body airliner in the world. The first airline to operate the new aircraft was the French Air France.
European aircraft weren’t entirely unfamiliar to Aero. The airline entered Jet Age with French Sud Aviation (later part of Aérospatiale) Caravelle’s, and the airline had since operated for instance Fokker F.27- and Aérospatiale ATR -airliners. In 1986, Finnair leased two Airbus A300B4 wide-body airliners. The aircraft were handed over to the subsidiary Karair, to be operated on charter flights to popular resorts in the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. The aircraft were added to the parent company fleet in the early 1990’s, and removed in the end of the decade.
In the mid-1990’s, however, Finnair really moved from American aircraft to European. In 1997, the airline searched a short-distance airliner, to replace the retiring DC-9 aircraft. Airbus won its American counterparts in a bidding contest, and Finnair ordered the first twelve Airbus A320 airliners. Nowadays two thirds of the Finnair fleet consists of aircraft manufactured by Airbus.
A part of Finnish Aviation Museums collection related to Finnair is now available in Finna.fi search service.