Paint job but no 'rollout' party for newest Airbus jet

Wed May 8, 2013 12:23pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher

LONDON (Reuters) - Airbus EAD.PA has started painting the A350, a sign it is approaching a maiden flight, but has bowed to the industry's increasingly pragmatic mood by deciding against a traditional "rollout" for its newest jet.

Eight years after European leaders witnessed a spectacle worthy of stadium opera to launch the A380 superjumbo, Europe's latest aeronautical venture will prepare to leave the nest with less fanfare in an industry sobered by delays and technical mishaps.

The first coat of paint in Airbus livery should be ready on the A350 next week, people familiar with the project say.

After that, the high-tech carbon-composite jet will be all dressed up with nowhere to go until the first flight, which most industry sources expect in late June or early July.

The lack of pomp reflects growing emphasis on project "execution" after Airbus, Boeing (BA.N: Quote) and other manufacturers endured multiple delays and problems culminating in the three-month grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner earlier this year.

Asked recently whether Airbus would hold an A350 rollout ceremony, Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier told Reuters, "Probably not. We'll go straight to our first flight."

The flight's timing may disappoint enthusiasts hoping to see the jet, developed at an estimated $15 billion, at the Paris air show on June 17-23.

Bregier has said he will not be tied to PR deadlines after slowing the project to weed out any glitches. Airbus says the A350 will enter service on time, however, in mid-2014.   Continued...

The vertical tail wing of the first Airbus A350 is seen on the final assembly line in Toulouse, southwestern France, in this October 23, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jean Philippe Arles/Files