Airbus launches assembly line for long-range A350

TOULOUSE, France — Airbus inaugurated an assembly line on Tuesday for its new A350 jets, which the European manufacturer hopes will break Boeing’s domination of the long-haul passenger aircraft market.

By (AFP)

Published: Tue 23 Oct 2012, 7:22 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:09 AM

Airbus has become a symbol of European excellence and shows that “France and Europe can succeed in international competition,” said French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the ceremony opening the 74,000 square-metre (800,000 square-foot) facility outside the southwestern city of Toulouse.

The A350XWB (extra wide body), which Airbus expects to begin delivering in 2014, will “allow us to capture fifty percent of the long-haul aircraft market,” said the company’s chief executive Fabrice Brégier.

Airbus has dethroned Boeing in the medium-haul segment, but the American manufacturer still dominates the long-range market with its 747, 777 and new 787 Dreamliner.

The A350XWB will complete Airbus’ long-haul stable, which includes the A380 super jumbo and the A330.

Originally based on the two-engine A330, the A350XWB will make extensive use of composite materials to lower weight and deliver fuel economy, much like Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.Â

More than half of the aircraft will be made of composite materials.

The A350XWB will be somewhat larger than its competitor, able to carry up to 350 passengers whereas the 787 Dreamliner holds up to 290.

Ayrault also took the opportunity to praise the strategy of Airbus’ parent company EADS, despite the collapse of its plans to merge with British defence manufacturer BAE Systems.

The prime minister told EADS chief Tom Enders: “I have complete confidence in the strategy of the group you lead, and I wish you good luck and success in all the projects you undertake.”

The BAE tie-up, which would have created the top aerospace and defence company and given EADS the prospect of better access to the US market, was scuttled by Germany earlier this month due to fears it may lose manufacturing sites.

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