European aerospace group EADS has unveiled better than expected first-quarter results, driven by higher production at its Airbus division.
Revenue was up by nine percent at 12.4 billion euros, despite weakness on the helicopter side of the business.
It is also sticking to a summer target date for the maiden flight of its keenly-awaited A350, the rival to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
There is now speculation its first new jet in almost a decade could debut before the June 17-23 Paris air show, which would be a significant boost for a project that EADS has described as“challenging” after several false starts in design.
“You will not hear me today giving any new comment on any date; we are preparing the aircraft, we are doing ground tests, we are continuing structural tests,” Harald Wilhelm, the finance director of both Airbus and parent EADS, told reporters.
“The important thing is that it is a ‘mature’ first flight and this will happen in the summer I think. On this we are more and more confident.”
France’s La Tribune newspaper reported the A350 could fly in mid-June. Even so, most experts consider it unlikely Airbus’s newest jet will make the short trip to Le Bourget for the air show, since it must first accumulate essential flying hours.
Airbus is also keen to avoid repeating Boeing’s gaffe of promising to fly the Dreamliner in time for an air show during its development, only to have to backtrack at the last minute.
“They are doing all the right things, and it is okay to be quietly confident, but they can’t relax until it has entered service and been in service for a little while,” said Nick Cunningham, aerospace analyst at Agency Partners in London.
Boeing attends the June event determined to turn the page on a three-month grounding of the 787 due to battery problems.
Before that, Airbus had to cope with wing cracks on its A380, for which it is still taking minor charges.