The consortium Airbus Industrie, in which British Aerospace has a 20 per cent stake, is planning to build up to 650 of the double-decker aircraft over the next 20 years if there is enough interest from airlines.
The Toulouse-based company signalled its intentions yesterday by creating a large aircraft division to accelerate its work on the project, known as the A3XX. Airbus's American rival Boeing is also drawing up plans for a new large aircraft, but the European version will be a completely new aircraft.
British Aerospace, which has built the wings for all Airbus aircraft so far, would be the favourite to provide wings for the new large aircraft.
An Airbus spokesman said yesterday: "We might be able to launch the project within the next two years and have the first passenger flight by 2003.
"We reckon airlines are going to need more than 1,300 aircraft of 500 seats or more over the next 20 years and we would hope to produce about half of them."Reuse content