Enders plays down chances of A350's Paris appearance

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EADS has all but dismissed the possibility of the developmental Airbus A350 twinjet making an appearance at the Paris air show in June and stressed that the type is on track to perform its maiden flight later this summer.

Airbus had previously said the first flight would simply be in "mid-2013", raising speculation that it could fly ahead of the Paris event.

"Paris is nice," says EADS chief executive Tom Enders, during a New York media briefing today. "But it is more important that the aircraft is in its maturity to make its first flight."

Airbus is focused on its rigorous test programme for the A350 and is paying less attention to the "symbolism" of the air show, says Enders. First flight will come in July or August, he adds.

Nonetheless, Enders does not entirely rule out the possibility of the A350 being at Paris: "Miracles happen," he says with a grin.

The 314-seat A350-900 will be the first of the family to be developed, which also includes the 270-seat -800 and 350-seat -1000. First deliveries of the -900 are due in the second half of 2014.

However, Enders once again played down reports that the airframer would ditch the smaller -800, following comments by Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker to that effect.

"There is no decision to stop the A350-800," he says.

Qatar converted its order for 20 A350-800s to -900s and -1000s in December 2012. The move leaves Airbus with only 92 commitments for the smaller variant.

Enders remains ambivalent about the continued grounding of the Boeing 787. While preferring to be two years behind its rival to allow it to learn from Boeing's problems, he notes it "won't make certification any easier" for the A350.

Any new technology incorporated on the twinjet is likely to face increased scrutiny from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency as a result, he says.

"When the industry runs into trouble, it doesn't affect just one manufacturer, but everyone," says Enders.

EADS has not seen any notable uptick in A350 orders since the 787 was grounded in January, he adds.