The assembly of the Airbus A350 is largely complete with recent installation of the engines, and the manufacturer expects the first flight by mid-year, but not by the time of the Paris air show in mid-June, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier says.

“It’s possible, but not probable,” Bregier said in an interview before giving a speech this week to the Aero Club of Washington. “For the program, and this is what counts, it doesn’t make any difference if [the first flight] is before or just after.

"What counts is to fly around mid-year, because it will support the deliveries in 2014, which is what counts,” Bregier added.

No issues have come up in testing that change the mid-year target, he says.

Early this year, the CEO said Airbus had set an internal target to fly the aircraft before the air show, but also added that “if we fly just after the show, it does not make any difference to me.”

Bregier also is not professing much concern about Boeing’s consideration of a 777X, which he describes as a “nice paper tiger aircraft” at this point because of the lack of details. Airbus believes it has the lead in that area of the market with its A350-1000 plans. His belief is that the A350-1000, which Airbus is starting to “market more aggressively,” can match the range of the 777-300ER with 25% less fuel burn.

“The ball is now in Boeing’s camp, not in our camp,” he says. Airbus will wait to find out details of the offer and guarantees Boeing makes to potential customers regarding the 777X before deciding whether it needs to come up with any response, Bregier says.

Similarly, Bregier says he remains satisfied with the manufacturer’s decision to extend the range and increase the maximum takeoff weight of the A330 to make it more competitive on routes such as London to Southeast Asia, rather than opting for an A330NEO.