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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 15:32 GMT
Super-jumbo cleared for take-off
Airbus A380 design concept
The first superjumbo will enter service in 2006
The Airbus consortium is to start production of its new super-jumbo.

The new plane is to be called the A380 and will secure thousands of jobs around Europe.

We are totally convinced there is a sufficient market for our programme

Airbus chairman Manfred Bischoff
Its wings will be built by UK company BAE Systems at Filton, near Bristol and Broughton in North Wales.

Other sections will be made in France, Germany and Spain, with final assembly taking place in Toulouse, France, and cabin furnishing and painting in Hamburg, Germany.

Mike Turner, chief operating officer of BAE Systems, said the project would secure or create 22,000 jobs in the UK alone.

"Today marks the real beginning for the most important civil aircraft project the world has witnessed for several decades," he added.

'Changing travel forever'

The new aircraft, previously code named the A3XX, will seat more than 550 passengers. It will go into service in 2006.

Speaking at the consortium's Toulouse headquarters on Tuesday, Airbus supervisory board chairman Manfred Bischoff said the new plane would "change forever the way people think about travel".

And he reaffirmed the consortium's belief that there was a market for a super-jumbo.

"We are quite clear there is a market for planes above 400 seats.

"We are totally convinced there is a sufficient market for our programme and, you will see, we will capture it," he said.

Airbus believes that hundreds of ultra-large aircraft will be needed over the next two decades.

The company has listed the cost of an A380 at about 150m - not much more than a traditional Boeing 747 jumbo jet which seats about 413 people.

Equal terms with Boeing

Supervisory board co-chairman Jean-Luc Lagardere said the new plane would finally put Airbus on equal terms with its chief competitor Boeing - and give the world's airlines a real choice for the first time in the large aircraft market.

A recent decision by Virgin Atlantic to place a 2.6bn order for six of the planes means Airbus now has 50 confirmed orders, the minimum needed to begin production.

We are now in a strong position to launch production of the plane

Noel Forgeard, Airbus chief executive
However, the project is already facing objections from the US over what it says are subsidies given by European governments.

The EU on Tuesday rejected that suggestion, saying financing of the A380 would be carried out in "full compliance" with the 1992 US-EU agreement on civil aircraft production.

"The form of support will be repayable loans which are in full compliance with the 1994 WTO [World Trade Organisation] agreement on subsidies," EU spokesman Gunnar Wiegand added.

The US said any loans on non-commercial terms would violate the agreements.

The A380 is expected to cost more than 7bn to build and would replace the Boeing 747 as the world's largest passenger aircraft.

Virgin says it plans to build gyms, shops and stand-up bars inside the double decker aircraft, which has been billed as a flying hotel.

The company says it may also install double beds and cabins for business-class couples.

Demand for sky-hotel

Airbus had originally joined forces with American rival Boeing in attempting to develop a super-jumbo.

But Boeing bosses - unlike their Airbus counterparts - were not convinced of the demand for huge passenger planes in the future.

Boeing dropped out and decided not to press ahead with a new large aircraft of its own.

The EU on Tuesday said US complaints about the A380 project were motivated by concern to protect Boeing's supremacy in the large planes sector.

In addition to Virgin, other airlines including Qantas, Emirates, Air France, Singapore Airlines and US aircraft leasing company ILFC have also committed to ordering the new plane.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"A plane that will revolutionise air travel"
DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Manfred Bischoff
"We look forward to the future, with great expectations for Airbus"


The A380

Airbus company file
See also:

19 Dec 00 | Business
18 Dec 00 | Business
15 Dec 00 | Business
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