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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Airbus ups the pressure on Boeing
Airbus chief Christian Streiff with A350 model
Mr Streiff expects the A350 to take to the skies in 2012
Airbus has stepped up its battle with US rival Boeing with the launch of a modified version of its A350.

The long-haul, mid-sized A350 XWB plane will compete directly with the forthcoming 787 Dreamliner being developed by Boeing.

But Airbus chief Christian Streiff admitted the firm was in a "serious crisis" with its customers as result of delivery delays for its A380 plane.

Meanwhile, Boeing also admitted it was having problems with its Dreamliner.

UK concerns

Airbus chief Christian Streiff said the XWB - which stands for extra wide body - was an "entirely new design", using all the latest technology.

Three models of the plane were unveiled - a 270-seater, 314-seater and one with a capacity of 350 passengers.

He added that he wanted to wait 100 days before greenlightling the project for its industrial launch, but the plane was set to enter service in 2012 as expected.

Designers have also changed the plane's wing design - a development that has sparked concerns for workers in Wales and Bristol who make them.

Weekend reports suggested a rift was developing between Airbus parent EADS and the UK government after UK aerospace giant BAE Systems decided to sell its 20% stake in EADS.

The Airbus A350 and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner
The Airbus A350 has been up against Boeing's 787 Dreamliner

Newspaper reports said EADS was demanding that the UK government should allow it to compete against BAE for a greater share of UK defence and aerospace contracts - or face job cuts in the UK.

Airbus bosses refused to be drawn on the future of UK engineers working for Airbus saying that the UK was currently a centre of excellence for wing making, but no site had a "God-given right" to be given contracts.

UK Trade Secretary Alistair Darling is set to meet top managers from the firm at Farnborough, with reports suggesting he hopes to secure the jobs of the 16,000 UK workers who make wings and other parts for the plane.

A380 backing

As well as unveiling the new A350 design, Airbus also reaffirmed its faith in its 555-seat A380 superjumbo, after recent costly problems with the aircraft, saying it was "guardedly" optimistic of signing up new orders.

Arms and aircraft on display at the show

Mr Streiff also said the group was also "learning to be humble and learning to change its bad habits" as he called for a complete review of the Toulouse-based firm and a shake up of its working practices.

The previous Airbus chief executive, Gustav Humbert, resigned earlier in July over delays to the A380 as a result of wiring problems.

Airbus was not the only aerospace giant facing up to problems with production as US rival Boeing admitted its flagship 787 Dreamliner had been hit by glitches.

"We're a little over where we want to be at this time on weight, but ahead of where we were on previous programmes, so we're really focused on weight-efficient structure right now," Boeing chief Alan Mulally said.

"Some partners are a little behind on the schedule but we're working with them on recovery plans to catch up," he added.

But Mr Mulally insisted the hitches would not delay the plane's expected launch next year ahead of it entering service in 2008.




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