Although Airbus has finally given the go-ahead to develop its mid-sized A350 plane, exactly how the 10 billion euro project will be funded remains up in the air. Airbus Chief Executive Louis Gallois said no decision is imminent on whether to approach European governments for loans.
Italy’s Finmeccanica could be involved in the A350’s production along with Chinese and Korean firms. At a Parish news conference, Gallois admitted that the project is essential for Airbus, and its parent company EADS, when he said: “It is a symbol of the future, and this is what the A350XWB is all about.”
Airbus is trying to catch up to US rival Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. They are similar in terms of capacity and range, but the 787 is due to go into service in 2008 while the A350 will not be ready until 2013 and Airbus has only 100 orders compared to Boeing’s 432. The European plane maker also said that some orders for the A350 may be cancelled.
At the company’s plant at Toulouse in France, trade union spokesman Julian Talavan said the workers believe the major investment is vital. He said: “It’s imperative they launch this plane, it is necessary that our shareholders make this investment. They’ve made a lot of money in the past from the successes we’ve produced. It is necessary today to launch this plane at all costs.”
Louis Gallois justified possibly taking government loans to develop the A350 by saying that Boeing’s 787 is a “highly subsidised” plane. That comment is likely to anger Boeing and escalate the dispute between Brussels and Washington on government subsidies to plane makers.
With regard to the much delayed A380 superjumbo Airbus said it is making progress but the situation remained tense.