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Sun, Nov 05, 2006

Airbus Considers Composites For A350 Fuselage

Planemaker Scrambles For Answer To 787 Challenge

Are composites the answer for Airbus? There is mounting evidence that Airbus thinks so.

This would be a radical departure for a company that's publicly upbraided Boeing for its all-composite 787 Dreamliner. Airbus has accused Boeing of "pushing the technology envelope" with the 787.

Now, according to Bloomberg, Airbus is considering a composite fuselage for the A350.

The A350 design has been through several different iterations since it was first announced -- six to be exact. The latest came earlier this year at the annual Farnborough Air Show when Airbus announced plans for the A350 XWB, for extra-wide body.

Before flip-flopping on its abhorrence to all-composite construction sometime after Farnborough, Airbus said the XWB was to have a composite wing, but a metal fuselage. There were to be three versions of the A350, but none would be ready for customer deliveries before 2012.

Airbus has focused a great deal of energy and resources lately on getting the troubled A380 program off the ground. Delivery dates for the superjumbo have slipped a number of times and the program is now two years behind schedule.

The beleaguered manufacturer has been steadily loosing ground to rival Boeing in the mid-sized airliner market -- Boeing has more than 400 firm orders for its 787 even though the aircraft has yet to fly.

This latest news from Airbus comes following recent statements from Emirates that the A350 design is still lacking as regards the airlines requirements. Emirates is to buy up to 100 mid-sized airliners and is reportedly choosing between the A350 and 787.

Bloomberg's sources say Airbus will present the A350 design changes to parent company EADS on Tuesday. Reportedly, development costs on the program will increase $2 billion up to $12 billion, and delivery dates will slip to 2013.

Many industry analysts believe the A350 is the only way for Airbus to compete with Boeing for the mid-sized airliner market. Emirates president Tim Clark told reporters if Airbus can't find a way to compete with the 787 "...they'll be out of business."

Of course, all of the design changes Airbus has made to the A350 to date may prove moot if parent EADS isn't happy -- it has yet to even approve the aircraft's development.

FMI: www.airbus.com

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