Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Airbus Expected to Give the Go-Ahead for Super Jumbo Jet

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Airbus Expected to Give the Go-Ahead for Super Jumbo Jet

Article excerpt

BERLIN -- Airbus Industrie's super jumbo, the double-decker A3XX, looked close to winning final clearance for takeoff yesterday, a step that could help the European aerospace consortium end U.S.-giant Boeing Co.'s dominance of the lucrative market for long-haul jets.

The company has shopped around the massive aircraft for years, but has yet to actually put it up for sale as rivalries flared about where to build it and doubts lingered about whether there was enough of a market for what would be the world's biggest jetliner.

Those concerns were fading yesterday at the International Aerospace Exhibition, where government officials from the four countries represented in the Airbus consortium said the company was expected to make a decision about the A3XX's sale in the coming days.

Painting a rosy picture about the future of the jumbo jet, ministers from France, Spain, Britain and Germany said market conditions were right to finally move forward on the project -- with Airbus having lined up potential orders for more than 50 jets from eight customers.

Airbus has said that it needs at least that many orders to get the $12 billion venture off the ground.

At the same time, the ministers confirmed that the company has resolved a key production dispute between Germany and France -- recommending that the company's Toulouse, France, plant get final assembly of the A3XX, and that Hamburg, Germany, get cabin and component construction.

"The time for a decision has come," said French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot.

The company's supervisory board must still sign off before actual contracts for the plane can be signed. It was expected to do so today or tomorrow, a source said, with the public announcement to be made in Berlin.

Analysts say Boeing's absence at the Berlin airshow makes it a shrewd forum for announcing the next step.

"It's a good place to do it because Boeing can't counterattack," said Chris Avery, an aerospace analyst with JP Morgan. Boeing sat out in favor of bigger air shows in Paris and Farnborough, England, later this summer.

Airbus has identified four of the eight potential customers: Singapore Airlines, Dubai's Emirates airline, Air France and U. …

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