EADS CEO Sees A350 Orders at Paris Show in Wake of First Flight

EADS Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders struck an upbeat tone on the eve of the first flight of the Airbus A350, saying the program is on track for commercial delivery next year even as it remains “immensely” challenging.

Airbus plans to perform the inaugural lift-off of the long-range jet at 10 a.m. tomorrow from its headquarters in Toulouse, southwestern France, marking the last time in at least 15 years that the European planemaker will stage the flight of a brand new plane, Enders told reporters in Paris.

“First flight is a special moment, but of course there are still plenty of challenges ahead,” Enders said. “The real work starts tomorrow.”

Enders, who took over leadership of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. last year, said he expects the Paris Air Show that starts on June 17 to yield “a few hundred” orders for Airbus, including for the A350, which the company is positioning against Boeing Co.’s twin-engine long-range models.

The A350 is Airbus’s first new commercial jet since development of the A380 superjumbo suffered delays on production setbacks before entering service in 2005. Enders said Airbus “worked very hard” to learn from those issues, and also studied the missteps that Boeing suffered on its 787 Dreamliner, which debuted more than three years behind plan.

Tomorrow’s first flying aircraft will be joined by an additional four jets as Airbus puts the program through tests to gain approval from safety authorities next year. The first serial plane is slated for delivery to Qatar Airways Ltd. Building the airliners to quickly reach output of 10 a month will be the next challenge, Enders said.

“I am quite happy with where the program stands,” he said.

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