AIRBUS PLANS NEW VARIANTS

Consortium uses Paris air show to announce development of long-haul versions

European airliner builder Airbus Industrie this week said that if it wins enough orders by September or October it will bring out two new versions of the A340 airliner. British Aerospace, which has a 20% stake in the consortium, builds the Airbus wings.

One of the new aircraft, the A340-600, which should be ready for service in autumn 2001, is intended to carry 378 passengers for up to 13,500km, allowing non-stop flights between London and Singapore or Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia. Besides a fuselage 10.7m longer than the A340-300 on which it is based, the A340-600 will have a larger and `refined’ wing from BAe.

Jean Pierson, Airbus managing director, said the aircraft is an ideal replacement for early model Boeing 747s.

The second aircraft, the A340-500, is a shorter fuselage version of the A340-600, but has a longer range than any other airliner. It could carry 313 passengers up to 15,400km.

Airbus has introduced a business jet variant of the `baby’ of the Airbus family, the A319, in response to Boeing’s launch of a business jet version of its 737. Development costs of the A319 are $30m – `small change,’ said Pierson.

He would not be drawn on problems with the consortium’s restructuring, saying only that Airbus members Aerospatiale, Dasa, BAe and Casa were strictly following the 13 January memorandum of understanding on the formation of a single company to run Airbus.

Asset valuation is under way and by the end of this year Airbus will decide on the creation of a limited company in 1999.

Aerospatiale is pressing for a company which would not own assets used for airliner production, prompting disagreements with BAe and Dasa.