Airbus loses its top spot as sales fall
AFTER several years of record-breaking success aeroplane manufacturer Airbus was forced to admit it suffered a slump in sales last year.
But the bad news has still been overshadowed by the mounting problems faced by the firm's biggest rival Boeing.
Airbus, which is one of Bristol's most important firms and employers, announced its results for the last 12 months at a press conference at its headquarters in Toulouse.
The firm admitted that it delivered 588 aircraft to 89 customers last year - compared with its record sales of 1,419 aircraft in 2011.
In the same period the American based Boeing delivered 601 airlines and took 1,203 orders. It was the first time in several years that Boeing has taken the top spot as the world's biggest aeroplane manufacturer thanks mainly to the popularity of its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft.
Ironically the Dreamliner has been hit by a series of problems in recent weeks which has seen the plane grounded across the world while safety checks are carried out.
The Dreamliner 787 has been hit by six incidents in 10 days, the most recent the emergency landing of Japan's All Nippon Airways outside Tokyo.
As a result Europe, Japan and India have joined the United States in grounding their fleet of Dreamliner 787s, which Boeing has spent billions of dollars on and touted as the future of air travel.
Despite the fall in sales bosses at Airbus are still up-beat and are predicting that its new A350 plane will help it in the fight for sales.
Fabrice Bregier, the new boss of the firm, said he was confident about the future but refused to criticise Boeing pointing out that his own firm has had its fare share of production problems.
Last year the A380 super-jumbo, which is part designed in Bristol, was grounded for safety checks after it emerged that tiny cracks had appeared in the plane's wings. It later emerged that the cracks were linked to a design fault which originated from the firm's plant Filton.
The European firm said that last year it delivered 588 aircraft to 89 customers. Sales of the flagship A380, the biggest commercial plane in the world, were particularly disappointing.
The sales were around one third of the target figure due in a large part to the problem that was discovered with the wings. The company says an investment of several hundred million mean that the issue has been solved.
Over the coming year Airbus expects to take more than 700 orders, excluding cancellations, and to deliver more than 600 new planes with much of the demand coming from the Far East.
The order book at Airbus currently stands at 4,682 planes - the equivalent of about eight years of production work.
Airbus said that it hoped that its new long-range A350 aircraft, which will rival the Dreamliner, is on schedule to make its maiden flight at the end of June or beginning of July.
Mr Bregier said: "We have made reasonable good progress on the A350 but I will keep cautious until the end.
"For the first flight, we expect it by mid of this year which is a big milestone, mid means end of June or early July.We are not optimistic nor pessimistic but realistic.
"I am very humble. Lots of risks are behind us but I am more interested in what is in front of us."
Mr Bregier said that Airbus had beaten its own targets in terms of new orders booked and of completed aircraft delivered.
He said: "When we do better than expected we can be satisfied. When we see we are still in the leading position on neo market, we can be satisfied.
"We started earlier with a good product. If we do the right job and I plan to do the right job, it is a huge advantage."
The airline has employed an extra 7,000 people in the last two years, hiring 10,000 while 3,000 have left for normal reasons.
The company now employs 59,000 people and expects to recruit 3,000 this year.