With rival grounded, Airbus may speed A350 production

SINGAPORE — Airbus said it is looking to add another assembly line for its new A350 wide-body jet, a competitor to Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliner, to meet rising demand for the plane’s largest version.

With more than 600 orders placed for the A350, due for its first flight this summer before deliveries begin in the second half of 2014, Airbus is looking at adding capacity for the -1000 variant, said John ­Leahy, chief operating officer for Airbus.

‘‘I would like to believe that sometime this year we’ll be able to make a decision to do that,’’ Leahy said yesterday. Production of the baseline A350-900 began in October, with the smaller -800 due to enter service in 2016, followed by the 350-seat -1000 variant 2017.


Airlines’ quest to cut fuel bills will keep driving sales of more-efficient models such as the A350 and the Dreamliner, said Leahy, who predicted that Boeing will find a fix for the 787’s battery faults.

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Airbus said Feb. 15 it would revert to traditional batteries on the A350, dropping the lighter lithium-ion cells tied to the 787’s grounding, to help stay on schedule.

“We’re talking about going back to a proven nickel cadmium battery technology that would be about 60 kilograms heavier,” Leahy said. “Why take a risk for 60 kilograms?’’