DUBAI – Airbus is still aiming to sell 300 aircraft in 2009 and is confident it will meet 2013 delivery targets for the A350, a company executive said on Wednesday.
Speaking to Reuters Television at the Dubai air show, Airbus Chief Operating Officer said there were signs of recovery in the industry, and that despite the recession, the company was running at record levels by producing 490 planes a year.
“Three hundred is still the target … we’re still aiming for it, it’s a stretched target now, but I think we’ll get close. We are getting a lot closer than many people think,” Leahy said.
Despite a more subdued event than two years ago, EADS subsidiary Airbus said on Wednesday it had still won commitments at the air show worth $5.3 billion including orders from Air Austral for two A380s and Senegal Airlines for six new aircraft.
Leahy said the manufacturer had a backlog of 3,400 orders which would help it maintain its current high production levels, but added the next two years could see continued low incremental increases in orders.
“It will probably be another two years of low incremental orders but still we can try and keep very high production levels,” he said.
Emirates airline said at the air show this week it was in talks with Boeing and Airbus to buy “tens of planes”, possibly 777s and A330s, as the airline prepares for a global recovery.
In Airbus’ contingency planning, the levels of production could be decreased by two aircraft a month from currently 34 to 32 a month, Leahy said.
“Right now we’ve told our suppliers we stay flat at a rate (of) 34, but we are vigilant watching for the winter, because this winter is going to be tough. I think if we get to this winter we see a pretty spring ahead of us,” he said.
Leahy said production of the A380 was stable at the rate of one per month, and that the company planned to step up to two and three per month as the global economy recovers from the crisis.
Airbus was also likely to meet its targets for the A350s after learning from its mistakes on production of the A380,” he said.
“Having gone through the A380, learning from our mistakes, watching what is happening with the 787, and coming out four years after the 787, I think we should all be shot for gross incompetence if we have another screw up in the A350 programme. I’m sure we’ll be on target.”
Leahy also said a deal on wide-body jets with United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp., was possible in the next six months.
“This might happen in two tranches, first a wide-body deal for 20, 30 wide-bodies and then come back six months from now and then maybe look at other aircraft.”
Ethiopian Airlines placed an order for around 12 A350 jets worth almost $3 billion earlier in the week. The order is expected to bring sales of the future mid-sized, long-range passenger jet above the 500 mark.
Airbus has so far sold 493 of the planes, which are due to be available from the middle of the next decade, to compete with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. The Boeing model has posted sales of 840 aircraft.
Earlier at the show, Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders told Reuters he hoped Airbus could also strike a crucial deal with buyers on A400M military plane production and costs by end-year and was confident the plane would take to the skies before the start of 2010.