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Airbus shows off A350 at big Asian airshow

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The A350 aircraft. An Airbus photo

SINGAPORE (AP): Airbus showed off its new wide-body A350 on Monday ahead of Asia's biggest airshow, signalling that the jet's delivery schedule is on track and stepping up its battle with Boeing for the lucrative long-haul market.

The European plane-maker gave reporters a look at the twin-engine A350 before it went on display at the Singapore show starting Tuesday in its first public appearance since its debut flight in June last year. It will also join the show's flying display.

A little more than half of the jet is made of lightweight carbon fiber to make it lighter and more fuel efficient, a key consideration for airlines contending with volatile fuel prices.

The A350, which comes in three versions typically carrying 276 to 369 passengers and has a list price ranging from USD 254.3 million to USD 332.1 million, will allow Airbus to step up competition in the long-haul market dominated by Boeing's 777 and 787 jets.

Airbus has received 814 orders for the A350 so far, with 30 percent coming from Asian airlines such as Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines. The region is a crucial market for plane makers because its economic growth is driving rapid expansion of jet fleets.

Airbus hopes to woo buyers by showing off the plane to trade visitors on the show's first two days. Visitors won't see a plane with a completed passenger cabin because it's still outfitted with monitoring equipment used in ongoing testing.

The A350 presents an alternative to Boeing's 787, which also make extensive use of carbon fiber but suffered from teething problems last year. Lightweight lithium-ion batteries that caught fire on some planes were the highest profile problem. Airbus opted to abandon using the same type of battery on the A350 after the fires forced authorities to ground the 787 fleet for more than a month.

"Airbus has learned a lot from the 787 Dreamliner's unfortunate problems since its launch. This is the plane for the next decade and beyond," said Shukor Yusof, an airline analyst at Standard & Poor's.

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