European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co., the controlling shareholder of Airbus, said Monday that it fully supported the plane maker’s plan to develop an aircraft to challenge Boeing Co.'s forthcoming 7E7. EADS said it would make a final decision on the proposal next month.
The new Airbus aircraft, called the A350, would be a variant of the company’s A330 with new wings and engines and a longer range. EADS, based in Paris and Munich, decided at a board meeting Monday to continue reviewing the plan, the firm said.
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, overtook Boeing in 2003 to become No. 1 in the $50 billion-a-year airliner market. The A350 is aimed at undercutting Chicago-based Boeing’s planned 7E7 Dreamliner. The market for 250-seat jets totals $12 billion a year and is dominated by Airbus.
Airbus Chief Executive Noel Forgeard said last week that he hoped EADS’ board would give the go-ahead for the plane at this week’s meeting. In the absence of a final decision, Airbus can’t sign a sales contract for the A350. EADS didn’t say why it postponed the decision.
Airlines studying the plane for possible purchase include Qatar Airways, Aer Lingus and Korean Air Lines Co., Forgeard said. Other possible customers are Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., International Lease Finance Corp. and General Electric Capital Aviation Services, he said.
EADS’ board will next meet Dec. 10.