Airbus long-haul A350 project set for more delays: Cathay

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Airbus will have to further delay the roll-out of its key A350 long-haul twin-jet programme due to the need for technical improvements, the head of Hong Kong carrier Cathay pacific said Thursday.

His comments came as US aerospace giant Boeing announced it will carry out a flight test of its rival 787 Dreamliner in Japan in early July.

Airbus "has technical improvements to make (on the A350) and it will certainly be delayed," said Cathay CEO John Slosar.

The Hong Kong flag-carrier has ordered 30 A350s and expects the first to arrive "in late 2015."

Last November, Airbus sources said the European aircraft maker would reorganise its A350 programme to ensure that deliveries can begin before the end of 2013 despite pressures on the timetable.

That was already a delay from an earlier entry date of mid-2013.

Cathay boss Slosar told a press conference in Paris that, following delays with the super-jumbo A380, Airbus was "working hard" to minimise delays.

Louis Gallois chief executive officer at Airbus parent EADS, the European defence giant, confirmed on Thursday that the A350 calendar "remains challenging.

"Critical milestones have been reached on the A350, with difficulties to be overcome in the coming years to manage this risky programme," he told the group's annual general meeting in Amsterdam.

Slosar said Cathay Pacific aims to increase its daily flights to major destinations such as London, New York and Sydney.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, US aerospace giant Boeing said it will carry out a flight test of its 787 Dreamliner in Japan in early July with its inaugural customer All Nippon Airways (ANA).

It will be the first Asian test of the high-tech Dreamliner as the US firm has long delayed its first delivery to ANA, which is now expected in August or September.

Boeing had originally promised to roll out the plane in 2008 but a string of technical mishaps and delays have slowed the testing programme for the jets, heralded as a new generation of highly fuel-efficient mid-sized aircraft.

British budget airline Easyjet said separately it was in talks with both Airbus and Boeing on what planes it will need after 2015.

"It is very early in the discussion," CEO Carolyn McCall said in France.

© 2011 AFP

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