Airbus Industrie has confirmed a delay in its launch timing for the 480- 660-seat A3XX programme, saying "- the market is not ready for it yet".

Airbus' A3XX timetable had called for a "substantial programme decision" to be taken early in 1999, to enable it to launch the project's industrialisation programme and begin making commercial offers to prospective customers. The manufacturer then planned to use its accumulated order pledges to secure a launch commitment from the Airbus supervisory board in the fourth quarter of 1999, which would enable it to deliver the first A3XX in October 2004.

At a recent meeting between Airbus partners Aerospatiale, British Aerospace, CASA, and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, it was decided to delay the programme decision "until the end of the year" at the earliest. "The market tells us that 2005 is the earliest time they want the aircraft", says an Airbus source. "We are working towards that date".

The latest setback is the second major delay in the A3XX programme, the first having occurred in late 1997 when it was decided that more work was needed to reduce direct operating costs to the target of 20% lower than the current 747. On the new timing the aircraft will be two years behind its original schedule.

Airlines hit by the recessionary impact of the Asian financial crisis have been hinting for some time that market conditions are against an early launch (Flight International 13-19 January).

Source: Flight International