German loan boosts A3XX superjumbo jet

Associated Press

BERLIN — The German government gave a big boost to the Airbus A3XX superjumbo jet as a competitor to Boeing’s 747, promising Wednesday to back an $860 million low-interest loan to help get the project going.

The loan will help sustain 6,000 new Airbus jobs throughout Germany, including 4,000 at the company’s Hamburg plant, which will make interior components for the double-decker aircraft to be assembled in Toulouse, France.

Total development for the long-haul jet is expected to run up to $12 billion, making financial help from the four countries in the Airbus consortium essential.

Britain’s BAE Systems and Airbus’ three other partners, DaimlerChrysler’s Dasa, Aerospatiale Matra of France, and Spain’s Casa — which recently merged into the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. — have asked their own governments for aid.

Already, the French, German and British governments have said they will contribute up to one-third of the development costs, with low-interest loans repayable over 17 years — as stipulated by a 1992 accord with the United States that regulates launch aid for aviation projects.

So far, the British government has earmarked $830 million in A3XX aid, while France has said it would offer $1 billion by 2005. Spain has yet to detail its plans.

Boeing has derided the A3XX as redundant, saying there is no market for such a huge aircraft. The first version of the plane would seat 555 people and have a range of 8,700 miles, about the same as the 416-passenger 747-400.

Airbus expects the first A3XXs to roll off production lines by 2006.

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