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Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Airbus chief predicts 15 years to catch up with Boeing

AFP , PARIS

European aircraft maker Airbus may need 15 years to catch up with and overtake US rival Boeing, chief executive Christian Streiff warned in an interview yesterday.

"This is such a long-term business," Streiff told the Financial Times after Airbus parent EADS announced further production delays to the development of the A380 superjumbo, a critical component in the competition with Boeing, as well as the prospect of heavy losses.

"We must catch up. In 15 years I hope we are ahead of Boeing again," he said.

Streiff said another high-profile Airbus venture, the A400M military plane, was also under pressure.

"The timetable is exactly on the edge. It is a tense situation with a number of suppliers internally. We are exactly on track but without any reserves," he said.

The co-chief executive of EADS, Thomas Enders, meanwhile told the Financial Times that the future of the mid-size A350 could be in question. Asked if the project might be endangered because of the current crisis at EADS, he said: "I cannot rule that out."

Of the difficulties plaguing the A380, Enders said: "The A380 timetable was ambitious from the start and perhaps unrealistic from today's perspective."

At the end of last month Boeing had received 666 firm aircraft orders against 222 for Airbus at the end of August, according to available figures. But Airbus is this year scheduled to deliver 430 planes to Boeing's 395.

Airbus management met on Wednesday with employees to discuss a major restructuring that would include job cuts to the manufacturer's 55,000-strong workforce.

With the A380 program now nearly two years behind schedule, EADS on Tuesday issued a profit warning and forecast a cash shortfall of US$8.0 billion.

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