Airbus may take 15 years to catch up with Boeing

5th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - European plane-maker Airbus said Thursday it may need 15 years to catch up with and overtake US rival Boeing, while the co-chief executive at parent company EADS said plans for the new mid-size A350 jet might have to be scrapped.

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - European plane-maker Airbus said Thursday it may need 15 years to catch up with and overtake US rival Boeing, while the co-chief executive at parent company EADS said plans for the new mid-size A350 jet might have to be scrapped.

"This is such a long-term business," Airbus chief executive Christian Streiff told the Financial Times after EADS announced further production delays to the development of the A380 superjumbo, a key component in the competition with Boeing, as well as the prospect of heavy losses.

"We must catch up. In 15 years I hope we are ahead of Boeing again."

Streiff said another high-profile Airbus venture, the A400M military transport plane, was also under pressure.

"The timetable is exactly on the edge. It is a tense situation with a number of suppliers internally. We are exactly on track but without any reserves."

The co-chief executive of EADS, Thomas Enders, meanwhile told the Financial Times Deutschland that the future of the planned A350 XWB extra-wide bodied passenger jet could be in question.

When asked by the newspaper if EADS had considered halting development of the aircraft, which is planned as a competitor to rival Boeing's future 787 Dreamliner, Enders said: "I can't rule it out."

"Taking into account the difficult situation that we are in, and also the importance of the A350 decision, nothing can be considered automatic," he said.

But in another newspaper interview published Thursday, Airbus' Streiff insisted that the A350 was a "fundamental" part of the manufacturer's strategy.

"Even if we arrive with three or four years' delay with respect to Boeing's 787, this question (of the A350) is capital for the devlopment of Airbus," he told the French daily Le Monde.

"Being absent from a segment that represents 40 percent of the value of the market is difficult to imagine," he said.

But he added that it was up to the board of EADS to make such decisions.

The Dreamliner is scheduled to be launched in 2008.

In his interview with the Financial Times, Enders of EADS said of the difficulties plaguing the A380: "The A380 timetable was ambitious from the start and perhaps unrealistic from today's perspective."

At the end of September Boeing had received 666 firm aircraft orders against 222 for Airbus at the end of August, according to available figures.

But Airbus is this year scheduled to deliver 430 planes to Boeing's 395.

Airbus management met Wednesday with employees to discuss a major restructuring that would include job cuts to the manufacturer's 55,000-strong workforce.

With the A380 program now nearly two years behind schedule, EADS on Tuesday issued a profit warning and forecast a cash shortfall of EUR 6.3 billion.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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