Airbus chief admits to mistakes over new A350 model
BERLIN (AFP) - The planemaker Airbus has made mistakes in its thinking on development of a model to compete with Boeing's new plane the 787, a chief executive of the European consortium admitted.
In an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, made available in advance, Germany's Thomas Enders said Airbus had under-estimated the Boeing 787.
"That's why we needed some time to come up with a competitive aircraft," said Enders, co-chairman of the European Aerospace, Defence and Space (EADS) company which owns Airbus together with British defence group BAE Systems.
"We've made mistakes. But we have put this behind us," he said. The company reckoned with sales of 200 of the projected new twin-engined A350 model, which has come under criticism from potential customers.
The European company has received 100 firm orders for the A350 against 345 orders for the fuel-efficient 787, launched in 2004.
Two Airbus customers, the US leaser ILFC and Singapore Airlines, have publicly criticised the A350, suggesting it needed a completely new fuselage.
Enders answered critics by saying Airbus was just starting to develop the A350 and was open to any ideas to ensure it went into service as scheduled by 2010.
Enders has been joint president of EADS since last year together with France's Noel Forgeard.
Last Thursday, sources at the Airbus plant at Toulouse in southern France said the board of EADS was likely to opt this month to develop the A350 as a new plane with an enlarged fuselage and new wings.
Such a decision would delay the first delivery date by a year and could double the development costs, currently estimated at four billion dollars, the source said.
Other sources spoke of a two-year delay and said the changes would amount to a major revamp of the A350 plans, rather than the development of an entirely different aircraft, with a bigger capacity, redesigned wings and fuel economies.
The planned A350 is itself a revamp of the 300-seat Airbus A330.
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