Airbus opens superjumbo A380 assembly plant

7th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, May 7 (AFP) - The European aircraft maker Airbus unveiled Friday a gigantic assembly line for the super-jumbo A380, with chairman Noel Forgeard forecasting Japanese and US carriers would buy the plane, though probably at less than its sticker price of USD 281 million (EUR 235 million).

TOULOUSE, France, May 7 (AFP) - The European aircraft maker Airbus unveiled Friday a gigantic assembly line for the super-jumbo A380, with chairman Noel Forgeard forecasting Japanese and US carriers would buy the plane, though probably at less than its sticker price of USD 281 million (EUR 235 million).

"What we are building together now is not just a great airplane, its a beautiful European tale and we can be justly proud of that Europe," Forgeard said at a ceremony with Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on the outskirts of this southern French city.

The A380 program aims to put the world's biggest civilian airliner in the skies by early 2005.

Raffarin also spoke to about 3,000 Airbus staff and guests less than a week after the European Union expanded to 25 countries, saying: "Thank you for this moment, thank you for the vision that Airbus gives of our new Europe."

Airbus has fixed a catalogue price of USD 281 million for the future super-jumbo which should attract foreign airlines that operate long-distance routes, Forgeard had said earlier in the day.

He told US cable news television CNBC that Airbus was in talks with a US carrier, and added: "I'm very confident that at least one major Japanese carrier will operate the A380 for a very simple reason.

"Others carriers like Air France, Singapore (Airlines) or Lufthansa will operate the A380 in Tokyo Narita and then it will obviously put a huge pressure on the operators if they do not have the A380," he said in reference to the Japanese capital's main airport.

The Airbus chairman acknowledged however that airlines often pay less than the catalogue price.

The plane, designed to carry more than 550 passengers, was developed by Airbus, which is 80-percent owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS) and 20 percent by BAE Systems of Britain.

Its huge final assembly facility was named for Jean-Luc Lagardere, the late head of an eponymous industrial group who as co-chairman of EADS was key to getting the A380 into production.

"This factory is a cathedral," Forgeard gushed after paying hommage to Lagardere's "guts" in front the building which measures 490 meters long by 250 wide and 46 high (539 by 275 by 50.6 yards).

"It's a kind of communal home, a beehive, almost a small city," at which the various aircraft parts will arrive from all over Europe by a mix of road, river and sea transport.

To date, 11 airlines have ordered 129 copies of the plane, but the model on which attention focused Friday was destined for destruction by extensive stress tests.

The future super-jumbo will be highly fuel efficient, Forgeard told France Inter radio, consuming around three litres (0.78 gallons) per passenger for 100 kilometers.

"The fact that oil is very expensive is very favorable for the A380 because it will be the most economical plane in existence," consuming "less than a small car," he claimed.

Forgeard admitted however that high oil prices could hurt the airline sector in general.

The aircraft will break a 30-year monopoly that US aircraft maker Boeing has held in the market for big passenger airplanes with its 747.Airbus took the lead on its US rival in 2003 for the first time in its history, delivering 305 civil aircraft compared with Boeing's 281.


© AFP

Subject: French news

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