PARIS (AP) _ Airbus Industrie is in talks with Singapore Airlines that could result in the Asian airline outfitting its fleet with the world's first super jumbo jets, called the A3XX.

``The airline is in discussions for the initial purchase of up to 16 aircraft, including 10 firm orders and six options, for delivery from late 2005,'' Airbus, the European consortium building the aircraft, said Tuesday in a statement.

In Singapore, Singapore confirmed in a statement that it was ``in talks with Airbus'' about the possible purchase of the A3XX.

The 555-seat double-decker, built at a cost of about $12 billion, has been years in the making. Airbus has said the jumbo jet would only be launched if enough customers placed orders. The supervisory board of Airbus has yet to formally offer the plane for sale, but the decision to seek concrete offers is expected to be made at a session scheduled for May 26.

``Singapore Airlines had been one of our key partners in the design of the A3XX,'' Airbus' chief executive Noel Forgeard said in Tuesday's statement. He added that the airline's interest in the jetliner was ``a significant step towards the formal launch of the program before year end.''

The A3XX would challenge rival Boeing Co.'s 400-seater 747 aircraft, the largest commercial jetliner in production.

The move by the large Asian carrier, known for its attention to the long-term values of commercial aircraft, could prove timely and helpful to advocates of the A3XX within Airbus.

Emirates Airlines, based in the United Arab Emirates, last month became the first carrier to say it would order the A3XX. That airline said it plans to order five of the jets, with options to purchase another five in the future.

The Singapore-based carrier's interest could help Airbus generate other tentative commitments from carriers targeted as initial ``launch'' buyers.

Airbus officials hope to secure as many as 50 initial orders from five airlines. Other targeted carriers include Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways, Air France Group, Malaysian Airline System, Virgin Atlantic Airways of Britain, Atlas Air Inc. and FedEx Corp.