Airbus set for A350 safety approval in late summer: EASA

Wed May 7, 2014 2:04pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) is on track to get safety certification for its latest jetliner, the A350, by "the end of the summer" as planned, Europe's top air safety regulator said on Wednesday.

Airbus has said tests are going well on its new lightweight, medium-sized jet, developed at an estimated cost of $15 billion and designed to compete with Boeing's (BA.N: Quote) 787 Dreamliner, the world's first mainly carbon-composite passenger jet.

"We are still looking at the end of the summer," Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), told Reuters.

Backing for the timetable came as Airbus prepared for extreme weather testing in Florida where a special hangar will bathe the jet in temperatures between -40 and +40 degrees Celsius.

EASA is seen likely to certify the jet at the end of August or in early September so that Airbus can deliver the A350 to its first customer, Qatar Airways, around the end of the year.

The A350 and 787 Dreamliner are competing for thousands of projected sales in the lucrative market for lightweight intercontinental jets seating between 250 and 350 passengers.

While European and U.S. regulators most often work in tandem, safety officials say there will be a gap of several months between transatlantic approvals needed to allow the A350 to fly on routes involving long stretches over water.

The Extended Operations or ETOPS rules determine the maximum amount of flying time planes can stray from the nearest airport. Airbus has asked for a margin of at least three hours, matching the current rule for the 787.   Continued...

The logo of Airbus Group, Europe's largest aerospace group, is pictured in front of the company headquarters building in Ottobrunn, near Munich February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle