June 21, 2007

Airbus revives as buyers queue up

AIRBUS is back - that was the claim made by the European manufacturer's president, Louis Gallois, at this week's Paris Air Show.

With Airbus orders and commitments for over 400 aircraft of different models worth an estimated $50 billion from over a dozen airlines and leasing companies, Boeing president Jim McNerney had to agree.

"Yes, Airbus is back and we congratulate them. There is a resurgence of A350 orders and a healthy backlog of A320 orders. We always anticipated they would be back. Over the past 30 years Airbus's history has been one of success. They are a fine company with fine people."

Airbus has just endured a difficult year with a two-year delay in its flagship A380 because of wiring design problems, while its answer to Boeing's 787 has been delayed by several redesigns because of airline objections.

But Mr McNerney was not troubled by Airbus's order count for the Paris Air Show, highlighting that some of the orders were "reconfirmations of existing commitments".

Mr McNerney told The Australian that at Boeing "orders come when they come, which luckily has been at a regular drumbeat".

Boeing also secured many large orders, the showpiece being an order for 52 of its 787s from the world's largest leasing company, Los Angeles-based International Lease Finance Corp.

That buy took orders for the 787, which will be rolled out on July 8, to an unprecedented 679 from 45 airlines, leasing customers and private buyers and worth an estimated $150 billion.

ILFC becomes the largest customer for the 787, with total orders for 74, followed by All Nippon with 50 and Qantas with 45. Qantas is expected to convert options for 20 this year.

The largest single deal at the air show was from Qatar Airways, which signed for 80 of the 270 to 350-seat A350XWBs, along with three 555-seat A380s, and is worth a total of $20 billion.

To meet demand, Boeing is studying lifting its production rate for all its commercial models, not just the 787, which is the fastest selling commercial aircraft ever.

Mr McNerney said "rates are being examined on all models".

He also added that serious discussions were under way with giant US carriers such as American, United and Delta for possible large orders for the 787. He said Boeing would win its fair share of the equipment decisions from these airlines and major European and Middle East airlines Lufthansa, British Airways and Emirates, which were all weighing the A350XWB and the 787.

Boeing has firm orders, options and proposals with potential customers for over 2000 787s, according to 787 program manager Mike Bair.

Mr Bair revealed that Boeing expected some of those proposals - some for large orders - to be decided "by year's end".

On the much anticipated larger 320-seat 787-10, which Qantas wants, Mr Bair said he was confident that the manufacturer could reach the range target of similar or better than the 777-200ER of 7700 nautical miles to be met by a weight-reduction program.

"Right now we are 700nm short of that but I am confident we can meet the target," Mr Bair said.

However, Boeing is not going to increase the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft which would require a heavier six-wheeled undercarriage.

The full of this article's can be read on the source at: theaustralian.news.com.au

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