European planemaker Airbus yesterday announced proposals to modify the design of its planned A350 mid-sized jets, as the company struggles to compete with US rival Boeing.
Three new versions of the extra-wide bodied A350 XWB will compete directly with the 787 Dreamliner being developed by Boeing, whose orders for new planes beat Airbus by four-to-one in the first half of 2006.
Toulouse-based group Airbus has developed 270-seater, 314-seater and 350-seater models of the plane after modifying its design following customer complaints that the aircraft was not sophisticated enough.
Announcing details of the modified jet at the Farnborough air show, new Airbus chief executive Christian Streiff said that in addition to a wider body, the re-designed A350 would also feature more powerful engines, an advanced cockpit and an alternative wing design.
The new A350, which will enter service in 2012, is expected to cost around $10 billion (£5.5 billion) to develop, double the original costs estimated by Airbus.
Mr Streiff confirmed that the industrial launch of the plane would take place in October, with Airbus intending to approach the UK government and its other partner countries for development aid.
Airbus, which is 80 per cent owned by European aerospace company EADS and 20 per cent controlled by British firm BAE Systems, will be hoping that the announcement of the new A350 will help it to recover in the wake of damaging production delays over its flagship A380 superjumbo.
The A380 delays, caused by wiring problems, saw shares in EADS and BAE Systems plummet and prompted a shake-up of Airbus' management.
Addressing reporters, Mr Streiff acknowledged that the company had been through a "terrible period" and needed to regain the confidence of its customers.
"Airbus is in a serious crisis in our relationship with our customers," the Airbus chief said.
"We are taking it extremely seriously and we know the competition is taking advantage of it."
"We will do everything possible to create a real opportunity for Airbus. We're learning to be humble, to change our bad habits and to improve. I am confident we will emerge from it stronger than before," he added.
Meanwhile, Airbus rival Boeing has admitted that it faces its own problems delivering its flagship 787 Dreamliner on time.
Boeing chief Alan Mulally revealed at the weekend that its new plane was overweight, with the company also experiencing delays with some suppliers. But he stressed that the development of the jet remained within budget and was on schedule to enter service in 2008.