Airbus confident of avoiding Boeing battery issue
Sandy Morris, an aerospace analyst with Jefferies in London, noted that the 787 had been flight tested for thousands of hours. That it reveals problems now may lead authorities to conclude that the certification process had not been tough enough.
"If the authorities get more stringent and take more time to certify planes, the first to be affected is going to be Airbus, which happens to be the next major company launching a plane, (the A350)," Morris said.
Airbus expects the A350's inaugural flight to be just before or after the Paris air show in June.
Despite the problems that Airbus has faced and a weak global economy, the company booked a record 588 deliveries in 2012 while taking in 914 new orders for jets. For 2013, it plans to increase production to deliver more than 600 aircraft and expects orders for at least 700 jets.
The results were not enough to match Boeing, which for all its current troubles, regained the crown of biggest airplane manufacturer in 2012. The company delivered 601 last year, the most since 1999.
The two companies have been competing neck and neck for years, rushing to roll out new models that might appeal most to global airlines.
Among commercial planes, Boeing bet big on the 787, dubbed the Dreamliner, and its appeal as a high-tech and fuel efficient model. At a time of high oil prices, that was a big selling point with airlines, many of which were trying to cut costs. Airbus is focusing instead on size — the new A380 is a double-decker that seats 525 people and is so large some airports have to be adjusted to accommodate it.
The two companies are also challenging each other in legal arenas. They are locked in an international trade dispute with the World Trade Organization in Geneva, each claiming that the other receives illegal state subsidies.
Airbus' fortunes have been mixed in recent years. Until 2012 it was selling more planes than Boeing but it has also run into more technical problems, notably with the A380. It sold only nine of those superjumbos last year.
Looking ahead, chief salesman John Leahy pledged he'd get at least 25 orders for the massive A380 jets this year and expects to deliver 25. Airbus sold only nine and delivered 30 last year.
Bregier said the cause of the technical problems affecting the A380 had been found and a solution was being put in place for the nine airlines currently flying the giant aircraft.
Carlo Piovano reported from London.
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