For Airbus and its A350XWB program, 2013 should prove a critical year. With service entry already pushed back to the second half of 2014, the European airframer is carefully managing expectations for a first flight as it seeks to resist the temptation to rush the key milestone in time for June’s Paris Air Show.
Competition between Airbus and Boeing
Airbus has raised its sales target for 2013 to 700 airliners after surpassing its target of 650 for last year with gross orders for 914 airplanes and a net order count of 833 after cancellations. But the European airframer has acknowledged that it is especially eager to get sales of its A380 widebody back on track after logging orders for only nine of the superjumbos in 2012.
Airbus surpassed its delivery target in 2012 with a final tally of 588 aircraft for 89 customers (a rise of 10 percent over 2011). In press conference held at its Toulouse, France, headquarters on January 17, the European airframer also reported that it had exceeded its own orders target for last year by logging gross orders for 914 aircraft.
An order from Aviation Capital Group for fifty 737 Max 8s and ten 737 Max 9s last week lifted Boeing’s firm order total for the prospective re-engined narrowbodies to more than 1,000 and capped a solid year in which for the first time since 2002 the U.S. company outperformed Airbus in both deliveries and sales. Closed in December, the ACG contract increased the number of 737 Maxs on firm order to 1,029 and Boeing’s total firm order count for last year to 1,203.
Airbus might have to seriously consider alternative means of financing development of the A350 if the German government withholds loans of €600 million ($787 million) for the project, as reported in the German press. Airbus won’t comment, nor will German government officials, but any such development would force parent company EADS to defer to its plan to use its own funds rather than accept political influence over its decisions on work share or production locations.
Governments on opposite sides of the Atlantic remain at loggerheads over subsidies to their respective aerospace industries following a European Union rebuke last week of a U.S. claim that it has met a World Trade Organization deadline to withdraw illegal support to Boeing.
Forecast International is questioning whether component suppliers will manage to keep up with the demand from Airbus and Boeing as they prepare to raise production rates of commercial airliners over the next 10 years.
Airline demands for range and payload characteristics better tailored to their specific needs have prompted a shift in how Boeing approaches optimization of the various airplanes within a given family.
Airbus plans to start building a new A320-family assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., next summer, the European airframer confirmed today, marking yet another expansion of its narrowbody production ambitions. Scheduled for completion at the beginning of 2016, the plant will produce between 40 and 50 A319s, A320s and A321s annually and employ 1,000, estimates Airbus.
The World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body issued a ruling today that Airbus characterized as a “sweeping loss” for Boeing in the long-running dispute between the U.S. and EU over illegal government subsidies to their respective largest aerospace companies.