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Airbus aims to take orders for 700
commercial aircraft this year and to
deliver at least 600, following its 2012
performance in which the company
delivered 588 machines to 89 customers (including
17 new ones) and exceeded its 650-order target
by 40% with bookings for 914 units helped by 60
orders placed on December 31.It claims a 41%
gross share of sales by value (above 100 seats) in
2012; nett orders covered 833 aircraft valued at $96
Other 2013 plans (announced after February's
Asian Aviation went to press) include first flight of
the A350XWB -- perhaps before June's Paris air
show -- readiness for assembly and testing of the
first re-engined A320 Neo, and tightening of supply-
chain management as it increases production rates.
At 1 January, the backlog stood at 4,682
aircraft nominally worth $638 billion, with Asia-
Pacific customers accounting for 35%, Europe/
CIS 14% and a collective 295 covering North and
Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Aircraft
prices have been increased by 3.6% under the
manufacturer's escalation clause.
"We can proudly say it was a fantastic year.
[A] record number [of deliveries] highlights our
increasing efficiency," says president and chief
executive Fabrice Brégier. He announced options
for A321 Neo cabin configuration, including
additional over-wing emergency exits to permit up
to 236 passengers from the second half of 2017.
The increased accommodation is expected to reduce
seat-mile costs of 5%. Optional de-activation of the
forward exit will allow additional premium-class seats
in an undivided forward cabin.
The move reflects the European manufacturer's
conviction that average aircraft size will continue to
increase. Bregier says Airbus is selling more A321s
and fewer A319s, while A350 customers have been
switching orders from the Series 800 to the larger
Chief operating officer (customers) John Leahy
says Airbus revised its order target during mid-
2012 and had run 140 "campaigns [of which]
about half worked for [us]". The company concedes
that it expected the re-engined 737 Max to hand
Boeing a strong year, but Brégier claims not to be
disappointed. "We are still enjoying a leading position
[in the single-aisle market], following a small 'catch-
up' from Boeing. We are still on the right track."
Leahy claims that the A320 Neo has a 62% market
share against the 737 Max and believes Airbus
should be able to retain 50+%. Airbus executive
vice-president Tom Williams confirmed in January that
the European manufacturer was in discussion with
Chinese authorities to prolong A320 production in
Asia, including an extension of the final-assembly line.
Brégier acknowledges that 2013's "very
challenging" project is to fly the new A350, which
"is on track" for first flight mid-year. The executive
carefully avoids a precise prediction, saying: "If we
fly just after [June's Paris] show, it does not make any
difference to me."
Regarding competition from Boeing, Leahy
characterises the as yet undefined 777X as a "paper"
aircraft, arguing that planned new developments of
the big twin is evidence that the US company is
"worried" about the A350-1000. "This [year] should
be good for the A350," says Leahy. He claims that
lack of delivery slots is deterring further orders for the
Series 1000, which is scheduled for development
after the A350-800: "We have 12,000 engineers.
I think we're capable of doing two things at once."
Modification of the Airbus A380 flagship's wings,
following the discovery of cracks in small "wing rib
feet" attachment parts, will be implemented this year
on both in-service and new-build aircraft. Brégier
says that the issue is "now behind us. We have found
the root causes and the solution."
The European Aviation Safety Agency is expected
to have formally certificated the modification for all
aircraft before the end of March, having previously
approved work on operational A380s for a two-year
period only. Necessary re-working of in-production
aircraft has seen Airbus reduce 2013 planned
manufacture from 30 to 25 -- a total Leahy describes
as not easy but "do-able".
Without defining whether he means annual
production or overall programme development,
Brégier says that the A380 is "on track to break even
in 2015". Both executives point out that the aircraft
received nine times as many orders as the competing
(but smaller) Boeing 747-8 last year, while conceding
that only 10 orders were placed for the two designs.
Leahy recognises the fragile five-aircraft order
from India's Kingfisher Airlines, which has ceased
operation. "I have legally binding contracts
with Kingfisher right now. We got deposits, we
rescheduled the aircraft and it is probable at some
point we will take the orders out." Nevertheless, the
region remains very important for Airbus, which has
set itself a goal of attracting 700 orders from Asia-
Pacific in 2013.
Airbus says that its planned A350 XWB widebody and re-engined A320 Neo
narrowbody are both on schedule, as airworthiness regulators prepare to
certi cate modi cation of the A380 s wing. European correspondent Ian
2013's "very challenging" project is to fly the new A350, concedes Airbus.
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