Airbus opened its new A350 plant on Tuesday, triggering a new phase for fuel efficient aircraft. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault flew to Toulouse despite unfavourable climate to inaugurate the plant and is named after Roger Beteille who was a pioneer of twin-engined long haul passenger jets.
The A350 is the first of a new generation of jets designed to cut airline fuel bills by using mainly lightweight carbon-composite materials instead of aluminium. Airbus and Boeing are expected to bring out more than 6,000 mid-sized, long-range jets over the next 20 years. This is likely to lead to new routes bypassing crowded hub airports. However, both firms face huge construction challenges for the revolutionary jets.
Airbus says the A350 will begin operation in the summer of 2013 and enter service a year later. The models will allow to seat between 270 and 350 people. Full production will begin ahead of next year’s maiden flight, and increase the production to 10 planes a month by late 2018. The largest model, the A350-1000, will compete against Boeing’s 777 mini-jumbo, which boasts itself as the world’s largest jet.
Boeing increased the production of its 777 overnight in the wake of record sales and is ready to launch the new stretched Dreamliner, the 787-10. Boeing is due to publish third-quarter earnings. Airbus is also involved in disputes with the United States and Germany over the funding for the A350.