SINGAPORE (AP)--European aircraft maker Airbus Industrie will officially launch a program in December aimed at building the world's largest passenger jets and plans to deliver the first of them in the second half of 2005, the company said Wednesday.
“About half the demand for the A3XX will come from Asia,” senior vice president John Leahy said. “I am sure that we would not be launching it if there were not key Asian airlines on board.”
Leahy, speaking to reporters after a news conference at the Asian Aerospace air show in Singapore, declined to name any specific airlines that had expressed interest in the massive double-decker plane, designed to carry up to 600 passengers.
The company hopes to start making proposals to potential A3XX customers in May, Leahy said.
Airbus on Wednesday also announced that it is working on a new plane in the 200-seat to 250-seat category, a size usually used for regional flights, to replace its widely used A300 and A310 models.
“Those products (the A300 and A310) are also a little old and are not selling as much as they used to be sold in former years,”' Airbus president and chief executive office Noel Forgeard said at the company's news conference.
“So we are thinking of a new airplane, a 250-seater or less,” Forgeard said, adding that the new plane would be more cost-effective to fly, particularly in terms of fuel consumption.
Though Airbus for the first time beat arch-rival Boeing in new commercial jet orders last year, Forgeard said he expected Airbus' new orders to drop from last year's 476 to about 300 in 2000.
“We see some slowdown in orders this year,”' he said. “Our own predictions for the year are somewhere around 300 new orders.”
Airbus had 476 orders in 1999 compared with 391 for U.S. aircraft maker Boeing, giving Airbus 55 percent of the global market.
Despite the drop in expected orders, Forgeard said he expected the company's momentum to build, especially with its new products on the way.
Airbus Industrie is a consortium formed of DaimlerChrysler AG's Dasa unit, Aerospatiale Matra of France, Spain's Casa and Britain's British Aerospace Systems.
- Neil Harrison