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Airbus will not be rushed on A350 decision, North American CEO Eccleston says

By Darren Shannon in New York

Airbus North America president and chief executive Barry Eccleston today reiterated the manufacturer’s commitment to its current A350 programme.

Speaking today at a Wings Club lunch in New York, Eccleston - again repeating previous company remarks - also noted recent comments from leading industry executives about the long-term viability of the proposed widebody were being considered, but said these would not dictate a hasty, and expensive, overhaul of the programme.

“The A350 as it is today is a good solution,” Eccleston said. To prove the A350’s feasibility, the Airbus executive noted that 100 firm orders have already been placed for the A350, including the 16 earmarked for US lessor International Lease Finance (ILFC).

The current debate over the future of the A350 programme started when ILFC chairman and chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy in a 29 March speech at an aircraft finance conference in Orlando, Florida said Airbus must decide if it should settle on its current A350 offering - which is based on the A330 fuselage - and proceed with its already delayed launch schedule or pull the program and design an entirely new aircraft.

A new aircraft will cost the European airframer between $8 billion and $10 billion to develop, said Udvar-Hazy, at least twice the investment earmarked for the current A350 programme.

Widespread reporting of this speech focused on the call for a new aircraft, and Airbus has been unable to quash the debate. This was exacerbated when Singapore Airlines chief executive Chew Choon Seng in early April urged Airbus to return to the drawing board and develop a new widebody.

“At this stage, we will not rush that decision,” said Eccleston. “I don’t know when [a decision] will be made, but we will listen to our customers.” Airbus North American’s chief declined to elaborate on the possible outcome of such a decision.

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