The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie, on track to eclipse US rival Boeing in annual deliveries for the second straight year, is closing out this year on a flood of Asian orders and has snared the first firm expression of interest in its future A350.
Airbus, jointly owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS) and BAE Systems of Britain, has set its sights on between 315 and 320 deliveries this year and appears to be in good shape to beat Boeing, which is banking on 285 aircraft deliveries.
"2004 has so far been a very successful year for EADS and Airbus, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and we expect more Airbus orders to be announced before the end of the year," EADS co-chief executives Philippe Camus and Rainer Hertrich said in a joint statement.
In a further piece of good news for the consortium, Airbus disclosed on Tuesday that Spanish airline Air Europa had signed the first letter of intent to purchase the Airbus A350, signalling its interest in 10 of the long-range, mid-size planes launched just 11 days ago.
Airbus has likewise just announced major orders from two Indian low-cost carriers while its chief executive, Noel Forgeard, recently disclosed that he had reached an accord with a Chinese company on the acquisition of five giant Airbus A380s.
The European consortium said earlier on Tuesday it had struck a deal to sell 30 A320 aircraft to Air Deccan of India.
John Leahy, Airbus chief commercial officer, said the US$1.8 billion agreement amounted to a firm order for 30 planes starting next year with an additional option for another 20 aircraft.
Airbus estimates that by 2023 the Asia-Pacific region should account for 31 percent of global air traffic against 25 percent at present. Europe by contrast is seen as stagnating at 32 percent during the same period, with North America slipping back from 33 to 26 percent.
Separately, Asia's top airline Japan Airlines (JAL) said yesterday it was seriously considering a purchase of the Boeing 7E7 Dreamliner, the next-generation jet on which the US aviation giant is staking its future.
"We have been considering buying the plane. We have had in-depth discussions and we are at the final stage of our consideration," JAL spokesman Tatsuo Yoshimura said.
His comment came after The Wall Street Journal reported that JAL may yesterday announce the selection of the Boeing 7E7 to replace as many as 58 aircraft in its fleet.
The airline has said it wants to replace its 36 aging Boeing 767s and 22 Airbus A300-600s by 2008 -- the same year that Boeing plans to introduce the 7E7, the newspaper said.
A JAL purchase would give a badly needed boost to the sluggish sales of the Dreamliner, a fuel-efficient jet which can hold 200 to 300 passengers.