The owners of Airbus SAS approved the launch of a new A350 passenger jet Friday to rival Boeing Co.’s 7E7.
“EADS and British Aerospace Systems have given the go-ahead for Airbus to offer a new member of its wide-body family to airlines around the world,” said Patrice Kreis, a spokesman for the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., Airbus’ parent company.
The launch of the A350 could prove a fresh setback for Boeing’s passenger jets’ arm, which fell behind Airbus in global deliveries for the first time last year. Chicago-based Boeing has received only 52 of the 200 7E7 orders it targeted this year, and some analysts say the planned A350 may be to blame.
Airbus’ statement did not say how much the plane would cost to develop. But two sources close to the companies, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press the board had approved a new plane with a development cost close to 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion). Airbus had previously indicated it planned to spend about 3 billion euros ($4 billion) on the new A350 — significantly less than Boeing’s $6 billion outlay on the 7E7.
EADS and Airbus declined to confirm the figure. But Airbus spokesman David Voskuhl said the new plane would have lighter, redesigned wings made with carbon fiber and improved aerodynamics.
Airbus said the new plane would be offered in two versions, both entering service in the first half of 2010 — two years after Boeing’s 7E7 “Dreamliner.”
The A350-800 will seat 245 passengers in a three-class cabin achieving a range of 8,600 nautical miles while the A350-900 will seat 285 passengers for a range of 7,500 nautical miles.
That compares with 8,500 nautical miles with 217 passengers or 3,500 nautical miles with 289 passengers for the first two versions of the 7E7.
EADS owns 80 percent of Airbus and BAE Systems PLC holds the rest.
Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard said last month that the A350 will capitalize on engine technology developed for the 7E7 by Rolls Royce and General Electric Co.
EADS declined to say whether it planned to apply for development aid from European Union governments. Airbus and Boeing have filed counterclaims with the World Trade Organization over what each claims is unfair government subsidies to the other.