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* A350 reaches Airbus paint shop as development progresses
* Maiden flight expected in late June or early July
* Airbus eschews traditional rollout for its newest jet
* Analysts pore over details of 787 competitor's debut
By Tim Hepher
LONDON, May 8 Airbus has started
painting the A350, a sign it is approaching a maiden flight, but
has bowed to the industry's increasingly pragmatic mood by
deciding against a traditional "rollout" for its newest jet.
Eight years after European leaders witnessed a spectacle
worthy of stadium opera to launch the A380 superjumbo, Europe's
latest aeronautical venture will prepare to leave the nest with
less fanfare in an industry sobered by delays and technical
The first coat of paint in Airbus livery should be ready on
the A350 next week, people familiar with the project say.
After that, the high-tech carbon-composite jet will be all
dressed up with nowhere to go until the first flight, which most
industry sources expect in late June or early July.
The lack of pomp reflects growing emphasis on project
"execution" after Airbus, Boeing and other manufacturers
endured multiple delays and problems culminating in the
three-month grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner earlier this
Asked recently whether Airbus would hold an A350 rollout
ceremony, Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier told Reuters,
"Probably not. We'll go straight to our first flight."
The flight's timing may disappoint enthusiasts hoping to see
the jet, developed at an estimated $15 billion, at the Paris
air show on June 17-23.
Bregier has said he will not be tied to PR deadlines after
slowing the project to weed out any glitches. Airbus says the
A350 will enter service on time, however, in mid-2014.
The CSeries jet, rolled out by Canada's Bombardier
in March, is also expected to miss the Paris show, which is
likely to be dominated by a return of popular Russian fighter
For years, aerospace manufacturers have vied to produce
lavish rollouts to show off their latest creations.
The showbiz end of the industry is seen as an important step
in the marketing of a new plane, demonstrating to airline buyers
and aerospace investors that an aircraft's metamorphosis from
designer's imagination to real flying machine is complete.
Airbus and Boeing threw giant parties for the A380
superjumbo and 787 Dreamliner, but the celebrations turned into
a costly hangover when both projects were later delayed. Boeing
was criticised for displaying a partially completed shell.
"The rollout concept perhaps became a bit devalued by the
presentation of an empty 787 with the wrong fasteners and no
cockpit," said Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham.
"Historically, rollouts have been a great way of raising the
profile of a new airliner. But it is understandable if Airbus
feels that a first flight event can serve that purpose more
effectively," said Andrew Doyle, Editor of Flight Daily News.
With Airbus already describing the A350 schedule as
"challenging", the company is also seen as wary of giving
customers the impression it is being distracted - having held an
inauguration for the A350 assembly plant just six months ago.
The outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways, the jet's
launch customer, has criticised Airbus and Boeing over delays
and said this week the 787 grounding had cost it $200 million.
Shares in Airbus parent EADS rose 1.3 percent to
41.25 euros on Wednesday, outperforming European markets, having
risen 38 percent so far this year.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Rob Stallard said in a note
that the stock price would be sensitive to "any incremental news
on the A350 development".
Airbus is expected to hold media briefings in early June.
Here are some bashes that won't be repeated for the A350.
Feb 1987 - Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana pour
champagne over the nose of the A320 at a Valentine's Day debut.
April 1994 - Boeing commissions entertainer Dick Clark to
stage a Hollywood-style show for its 777 wide-body jet under 1.5
million watts of theatrical lighting - 16 times in total.
July 2007 - Boeing throws a party for 15,000 guests as it
unveils the world's first mainly carbon-fibre jetliner, the 787.
Sept 2007 - Russia allows foreign civilians into its
ultra-secret Sukhoi fighter factory for the rollout of the first
post-Soviet jetliner, the Superjet, flanked by dozens of models.
June 2008 - King Juan Carlos of Spain, a trained pilot,
lends royal glamour to the Airbus A400M rollout in Seville.
Feb 2011 - Airline bosses and workers don Boeing-supplied
sunglasses indoors to watch a revamped jumbo, the 747-8, appear
in a surprise new orange and red "sunrise livery".
March 2013 - Canada's Bombardier, which is challenging the
Airbus and Boeing duopoly in small jets, lifts the curtain on
its $3.4 billion CSeries plane bathed in blue light and dry ice.
(Additional reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Will