Airbus says A350 customer feedback came 'a bit late' and admits to two year delay on new design

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By Justin Wastnage in London

Airbus has taken a swipe at potential and existing customers for its A350 long-range twinjet for failing to supply timely feedback during the development effort, admitting that any newly-designed variant could not be ready until at least 2012.

In a hard-hitting interview with UK broadcaster BBC in its Hard Talk series, Airbus chief operating officer, Charles Champion, says the airframer "underestimated how much our customers wanted a competition between Airbus and Boeing with a new product from our side". He adds that "constructive criticism" that Airbus welcomes during the development phase of any new aircraft came "a bit late, maybe".

Champion, questioned by Sarah Montague on the programme, says that the re-design of the A350, initially based on the A330 airframe, is currently going through a discussion "loop" with "all stakeholders internally" such as partners and suppliers to see whether "an alternative, better A350 will do the job". These discussions are expected to be concluded "rather quickly," probably before the Farnborough air show in July, he adds.

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Any new product would be ready "a couple of years later than today's A350", or around 2012, says Champion. The new A350 could have an improved wing design, offering a cruise speed around Mach 0.02-0.03 faster than the current M0.83-0.84 design, he says.

External link:
To view Sarah Montague talking to Airbus chief operating officer, Charles Champion, about the launch of  the Airbus 380 and being pressed on the company's plans for the A350, click here to visit the BBC Hard Talk home page.