Airbus flying high on new deliveries
PARIS, Sept 14 (AFP) - European aircraft maker Airbus said on Wednesday that it expected to deliver 360-370 planes this year and more than 400 in 2006 and would begin producing its new A350 mid-sized jet next month.
Chief executive Gustav Humbert told a small gathering of French journalists that the company was in the final stages of preparing to launch the A350 and was “convinced” that 200 orders for the plane would be placed by the end of the year.
“We intend to launch the A350 in the first half of October, with the agreement of our two shareholders,” Humbert said.
The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) owns 80 percent of Airbus, while BAE Systems of Britain holds the remaining 20 percent.
Humbert also said that total aircraft deliveries by Airbus in 2007 were expected to be “significantly” higher than the 400 predicted for 2006.
Government loans to cover the launch costs of the A350 aircraft are expected to cover about a third of the 4.35-billion-euro cost of the project, he said.
Commitments from the French, German, Spanish and British governments are to be confirmed at about the time production was launched.
On the superjumbo A380, production of which has been delayed by four to six months, Humbert said penalty payments for late delivery would be far lower than the EUR 100 million estimated by some analysts.
He said Airbus was in talks with 10-15 airlines about sales of the A380, a giant double-decker aircraft that holds between 555 and 840 passengers.
The company has already received 159 orders, including 149 firm ones, and the first deliveries are planned for late 2006.
Changes to the delivery schedule mean Dubai-based airline Emirates, the biggest A380 customer with firm orders for 43 planes, is expected to receive its first A380 in Spring 2007 rather than October 2006.
China Southern will have only one of the two planes it ordered delivered before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The pace of A380 production is expected to rise to four per month starting in 2008.
“We are sold out until end 2010 (but) I am quite sure we’ll find a way to offer more slots to … customers,” Humbert said.
He explained that the A380 project would be profitable after 250 aircraft had been sold, based on current exchange rate assumptions.
On a separate matter, Humbert said Airbus and its US partner Northrop Grumman were still in the running for a contract with the US Defence Department to manufacture supply planes for the US Army.
A decision would be announced in Autumn 2006, with Airbus competing against US manufacturer Boeing for the contract, he said.
Subject: French news