* Aiming to extend range of A330 passenger jet - sources
* Drops "Ultimate" code-name of project - sources
* Move comes as Boeing ponders new version of 787
FARNBOROUGH, England, July 9 Airbus is
set to announce a partial redesign of the A330 at the
Farnborough Airshow to boost the range of the wide-body
passenger jet as Boeing ponders a new competing version
of its 787 Dreamliner, industry sources said on Monday.
The move reflects an attempt to maintain the success of one
of Airbus's most profitable aircraft after a second honeymoon in
the market driven by delays to the Boeing carbon-fibre plane.
The A330 twinjet is a sister aircraft of the Airbus A340, a
larger four-engine model whose production has now been halted.
Since the aircraft shared the same wing, the end of the A340
allows Airbus to clean up some of its features and increase the
maximum amount of fuel or payload at take-off by two tonnes and
in turn extend its range.
Airbus says the A330 is likely to sell well for some time
but is sensitive to the way the changes are being marketed as
Boeing trumpets a radical change in the lighter carbon 787.
The move to freshen up the A330 was originally code-named
"A330 Ultimate" but the name has been axed to avoid creating any
suggestion that the A330, in service since the 1990s, is nearing
the end of its career.
The limited design changes confirm that Airbus has decided
against a deeper overhaul for the A330 with new engines.
Airbus has enjoyed a second wave of sales for the A330 due
to delays in deliveries of the Dreamliner and is keen to prolong
the aircraft, whose development is paid for and which is a
second important source of cash alongside the narrowbody A320.
Boeing is drawing up plans for a lighter-weight Dreamliner
called the 787-10 seating 320 people that would in part compete
with the 295-seat A330-300 but reach about 1,000 miles further.
It is one of two projects Boeing is working on to maintain a
leadership over Airbus in long-distance twin-aisle jets,
alongside an extensive redesign of the 777 mini-jumbo.
Boeing says it has not completed preliminary studies in the
787-10 but is likely to push ahead with it before the 777.
However in engineering terms the 787-10 would be a
"double-stretch" - a stretch of the already stretched 787-9.
Analysts caution building such aircraft without too many
compromises in performance as weights gets added is not easy as
Boeing found with the 767-400, which did not sell well.
"The risk is that you add capacity but lose too much range,"
said Nick Cunningham of Agency Partners in London.
Airbus declined comment but said it had scheduled a product
announcement for later on Monday.