Airbus begins building first A350 XWB jets
European planemaker Airbus on Tuesday began building the first parts of its new A350 XWB, a wide-bodied airliner designed to compete with US rival Boeing's much anticipated B787 Dreamliner.
A statement from the firm said workers have started assembling the jet's giant wing sections in Airbus' plant in Stade near Hamburg in Germany -- just days after press reports suggested the project could be delayed.
"The A350 XWB sets new benchmarks for the aviation industry and passengers. Advanced materials make the new Airbus the most economical and environmentally friendly aircraft in its class," Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said.
The company said it has 528 orders for the jet and that the final assembly of parts made in several European plants will start in 2011, with the first finished model delivered to Qatar Airways some time in 2013.
Last week, the French financial daily Les Echos, citing a market research report, reported that the A350 might be delayed until at least 2014, but the firm has insisted it is confident of remaining on schedule.
Boeing stole a march on its European rival in 2004 by announcing the B787 Dreamliner for 2008 but it is more than two years behind schedule and is not now expected to deliver the first 330-seater jet before next year.
Both the A350 and the B787 are long-haul jets made with modern composite materials such as carbon fibre glass that reduce weight and drag, leading to greater fuel economy.
© 2010 AFP