Senior Airbus executives have finally come clean about the options being evaluated to tackle the Boeing 7E7, and they have not ruled out the development of an all-new design to compete in the long-range, mid-market sector.

Industry sources say that the manufacturer had been preparing to make a formal briefing on its plans to counter the new Boeing twinjet during the Farnborough International show, but decided against it at the last minute and instructed its executives to keep quiet on the subject.

Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy reiterates the Airbus line that the baseline 7E7-8 has comparable economics to the A330-200, but says that "admittedly you could fly further in a 7E7-8 although a lot of airlines are saying 'I'm not quite sure I want to fly 7,500nm [13,900km]'. But we are studying that extra range capability they have."

He says that Airbus will evaluate the market to see whether it needs to respond, and if it should be with a derivative or an "all-new airplane".

Speaking at the opening day of the show, Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard conceded that, while the company felt "no market pressure to react to their new airplane with our A330", Airbus "stays vigilant and ready to act pragmatically to take advantage of any market opportunities. So we make will hear from us in due course."

He says that with resources becoming available as design work on the A380 declines, combined with the fact that the company is on course to achieve its objective of reaching a "10% return on sales", scenarios are being evaluated to establish "the next step for the Airbus strategy for the 20 years to come".

Source: Flight International