Airbus prepares launch the A350 freighter.

Airbus is poised to begin taking orders for a freighter version of its A350 wide-body as soon as next month, in a challenge to Boeing dominance in the market for dedicated cargo aircraft.

The European planemaker has been speaking to more than a dozen potential customers and will seek board authorization to market the new plane in the coming weeks, provided it can line up enough commitments, according to people familiar with the matter. The program could officially launch by year-end, said the people.

Going after a segment where Boeing has long held sway would mark a major strategic push for Airbus. Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury told Bloomberg News in April that he’s keen to challenge his U.S. rival and that the A350, a modern, lightweight plane with carbon-fiber wings and hull, would be “a strong candidate” for a freighter, Bloomberg reported.

“Leaving Boeing in an unrivaled position is a little dangerous for Airbus,” said Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris. “It’s as much about addressing spots where your competitor is strong as it is about addressing weaknesses.”

The cargo version would be based on a modified A350-900 and may be slightly longer than the passenger version, according to the people. It would take four to five years from the launch date to secure regulatory approvals and enter service, the people said.

Photo: Don-vip/Wikimedia

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