Slump in Airbus sales, but A350 carries hopes
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, one of Bristol's most important companies 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.
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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.
But now the Dreamliner has been hit by a series of problems which have 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 US in grounding their fleets 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, which employs 4,00 people at its Filton plant, is still upbeat and is predicting its new A350 plane, which will rival the Dreamliner, will help it in the fight for sales.
It is on schedule to make its maiden flight at the end of June or beginning of July.
Fabrice Bregier, new boss of the firm, 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 order book at Airbus currently stands at 4,682 planes – the equivalent of about eight years of production work. The company now employs 59,000 people and expects to recruit 3,000 this year.