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Challenging Boeing: Airbus To Seek A350 Orders

By John S. McClenahen The global commercial aircraft battle promises to get fiercer. Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS has gotten the go-ahead from its shareholders, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. NV and BAE Systems, to seek firm orders for its A350 medium-size, long-range competitor to Chicago-based Boeing Co.'s 7E7 "Dreamliner." Expected to enter commercial service during the first six months of 2010, the A350 is slated to be available in two models: a 245-seat plane with an 8,600 nautical mile range, and a 285-seat aircraft with a 7,500 nautical mile range. Boeing's 7E7, for which the company has 52 orders, is expected to enter commercial service in 2008. It's a family of three aircraft: a 217-seat airplane with a range 8,500 nautical miles, a 289-seat aircraft with a range of 3,500 nautical miles, and a 257-seat airplane with a range of 8,300 nautical miles. The order go-ahead for the A350 may do more than heighten the competition between Airbus and Boeing, which now has Airbus delivering more aircraft than Boeing. It promises also to fuel the transatlantic fight over government subsidies of commercial aircraft production, a dispute that has already resulted in rival complaints to the World Trade Organization.

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