By Dow Jones Business News, October 21, 2013, 01:14:00 PM EDT
By David Pearson
TOULOUSE, France--Airbus is looking at developing an even larger version of its new A350 airliner than the stretched
version that it aims to have in service in 2017, officials at the European aircraft manufacturer said Monday.
Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EAD.FR), would be responding to strong demand from airlines
for fuel-efficient, twin-engine, wide-body planes as they try to maximize their revenue yield by carrying more
passengers on single flights, hence growing orders for Boeing Co.'s new 787 jetliner and the Airbus A350.
Developing a longer model than the 350-seat A350-1000 that Airbus is planning to bring into service in 2017 is
possible, Didier Evrard, head of the A350 program, told journalists.
"It's in a pre-concept phase," Mr. Evrard said. "We can certainly do it; it's a question of market, of priorities, and
we will continue to listen to our customers about what's best for them."
Upgrading the A350 with a higher-capacity model could put further pressure on U.S. rival Boeing, which is expected to
announce a decision to go ahead with an extended version of its 777-700ER in the coming weeks. The Boeing will be a
response to Airbus's decision in 2011 to develop an upgraded version of the A350-1000, said Sophie Pendaries, head of
product marketing at Airbus.
The Airbus officials stressed, however, that the ability of suppliers to keep up with its plans is critical for the
success of the A350 program.
Airbus "isn't in a hurry" to develop more versions of the plane as it has 756 A350s in its order backlog for a plane
that is undergoing flight testing before Airbus starts deliveries to customers next year, Mr. Evrard said.
Mr. Evrard said the development of the A350-900, the first version of the current three-member A350 family, is on
track, but he acknowledged that there are "a lot of challenges." This plane made its first flight in June.
Mr. Evrard said the schedule is for the plane to obtain type certification in late August or early September next
year. Launch customer Qatar Airways could receive its first aircraft four or five weeks after that.
Evrard said Airbus has encountered relatively minor issues during flight testing over the past four months, including
some software glitches that were quickly ironed out.
Airbus plans to ramp up the A350 production rate from a monthly rate of three aircraft to 10 by 2018, Mr. Evrard said.
Write to David Pearson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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