Airbus confident of avoiding Boeing battery issue

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm •  Published: January 17, 2013
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BLAGNAC, France (AP) — Airbus said it was confident its planes would not encounter the same technical problems afflicting archrival Boeing's 787s, even though they use the same kind of batteries that have this week raised security concerns.

The company may nevertheless be affected eventually, experts say. If investigations show that authorities had approved parts for the 787 that turned out to be deficient, Airbus may face tougher tests when it tries to launch a new plane this year.

Boeing Co.'s 787s have been grounded by governments around the world, including in the U.S. and Europe, because of fears the airplane's lithium ion battery system was unsafe. The batteries in some cases swelled and leaked, creating a fire hazard under the cockpit, where they are stored.

Airbus's new A350 wide-body jet, a rival to the 787 that will make its first flight around the middle of the year, also uses lithium ion batteries, but in a different setup. That means it is unlikely to face the same problems as the 787, Airbus said.

"We are confident our design is robust" and "don't see any reason to change," Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier told reporters after announcing that deliveries in 2012 reached a record high. Despite the rise, the deliveries were still less than Boeing's, making the Chicago-headquartered company the world's largest plane maker.

Bregier noted the A350 requires only half the battery power of a plane like the 787, which is the first commercial aircraft to make extensive use of batteries to drive its electrical systems and be fuel-efficient.

"There are some architectural differences and the suppliers are different," Bregier said. "As Boeing said, the battery is not the issue, it's the way you integrate it to the power system."

Airbus has had its own share of technical problems that have delayed the rollout of a key military aircraft, costing billions in extra costs, as well as security issues concerning the wing ribs of its superjumbo A380 jets.

Bregier and his fellow officials at Airbus avoided any smug remarks over their rival's current troubles.

"It's not our place to give Boeing lessons, we've had our own problems in the past," Bregier said. "I honestly wish all the best to my colleagues at Boeing to put this aircraft back in flight. I don't bet on the difficulties of a competitor in order to build Airbus' success."

Industry experts warned against assuming that Boeing's troubles could help Airbus, even though shares in its parent company, EADS NV, have been rising this week as Boeing's have been falling.

That's not just because airlines are unlikely to cancel orders en masse without yet knowing the cause of the error, but also because an investigation in what caused Boeing's battery problems may throw up new regulatory hurdles for Airbus.

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