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New Airbus chief dismisses A350 delay fears

Says first customer will get their plane as scheduled in 2014.
(AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

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Gulf carriers, which have invested heavily in the latest next generation aircraft from Airbus, are unlikely to face the kind of wait they suffered due to delayed production of Boeing’s Dreamliner, the European plan maker's new CEO has said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Fabrice Bregier said that the first A350 would be delivered to its first customer in the first half of 2014, a target that he said was “workable”.

“I’m ready to take this bet [that there won’t be a three-year delay],” Bregier told the FT, adding that Airbus would do “better, let’s put it this way, on the A350 than the market consensus believes we will do”.

Delivery of the first version of the A350, a part-carbon fibre widebody that will compete directly with Boeing’s landmark 777 aircraft, has already been delayed by one year due to problems with suppliers.

Delivery of the second version, the A350-1000 - which has more powerful engines and a longer range - has been pushed back to 2017.

Boeing’s Dreamliner aircraft - the world’s first carbon-composite commercial airliner - was delayed by three years as the US manufacturer was plagued by delays, including supplier issues, the blow-out of a Rolls-Royce test engine and an electrical fire on board a test flight.

According to Airbus's latest order sheet, Emirates Airline has ordered 50 of the A350-900 variant, plus another 20 of the A350-1000 type, which is now due to be delivered from 2017 onwards.

In May, Emirates president Tim Clark told Reuters that the carrier was watching development of the A350-1000 variant “very closely”. “We don’t want to get caught in the same way as the 787s… we can’t afford a three-year delay on this,” he said.

As the A350 delay became apparent, Etihad Airways has steadily reduced its orders of the aircraft. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier originally ordered 25 A350-1000s, a figure that has steadily reduced during the course of this year to 12.

Qatar Airways has ordered 80 A350 aircraft, 20 of which are the -1000 variant.
 

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