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Airbus boosts building rate for mid-size jets

The world’s airlines expect strong growth, analyst says.

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner takes off from Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday in Houston. The plane is one of seven experimental models b...

    Pat Sullivan / Associated Press

    Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner takes off from Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday in Houston. The plane is one of seven experimental models being tested before the first commercial planes are delivered later this year.

How many medium-sized aircraft do the world’s airlines need annually?
A lot. That seems to be the answer that jet makers the Boeing Co. and Airbus have determined.
On Thursday, European jet maker Airbus said it plans to speed up production by 25 percent on its twin-aisle A330 aircraft. The increase will take place in stages with Airbus boosting production from eight aircraft monthly to nine next year and then up to 10 A330s monthly by early 2013.
“We are increasing the production rate for the A330 family due to the strong market demand for the aircraft,” said Tom Williams, Airbus’ executive vice president.
Based on Boeing’s and Airbus’ announced rates, the two could send more than 360 medium-sized aircraft into the jet market in 2014. That doesn’t include deliveries of Airbus’ new A350 Extra Wide Body jet, which is scheduled for first delivery in late 2013. Boeing and Airbus expect a 20-year demand of between 6,500 and 7,100 medium-sized jets.
Analyst Scott Hamilton, with Issaquah-based Leeham Co., didn’t dispute the two jet makers’ predictions for twin-aisle demand, unless another unforeseen event occurs, like the global recession or the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The world’s airlines expect strong growth. And “you’ve got a lot of old airplanes, particularly in this country, that need to be replaced,” Hamilton said.
Airbus’s A330 rate announcement came just a day after Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said he believes there’s not enough capacity to keep up with demand for medium-sized jets. As a result, Albaugh predicted Boeing will see more orders for its 767 aircraft.
Boeing designed its delayed 787 Dreamliner as a replacement for the Everett-built 767. Previously, Boeing said it plans to increase production on the 787 to 10 jets monthly by the end of 2013.
On Wednesday, however, Albaugh said, “There’s a demand for more than 10.”
With Boeing’s original 787 final assembly line and an additional surge line in Everett and its second line in South Carolina, Albaugh suggested the company could deliver 15 aircraft monthly. The limiting factor: Boeing’s global 787 supply chain. Albaugh’s comments indicated a longer life for Everett’s surge line, which initially was to be in place only long enough to get South Carolina’s site going.
In order to sell any 787s with decent delivery dates, Boeing will have to boost production beyond the planned 10 Dreamliners monthly, Hamilton said.
“The reason Boeing has to go beyond 10 per month on the 787 is because they’re sold out until the end of the decade,” Hamilton said.
Boeing has 847 orders for its Dreamliner jet, which Boeing says will use 20 percent less fuel than comparable airplanes.
However, three-years worth of delays to Boeing’s 787 has created higher demand for a similarly sized jet that airlines can get sooner: Airbus’ A330, he said.
January orders, deliveries
On Thursday, the Boeing Co. logged in an order for 10 737s but received a cancellation for 32 of its single-aisle jets.
Through Feb. 1, Boeing reported a net order total of 2. The company also said it had delivered 26 aircraft in January.
Airbus’s net order tally for January was 20. The European company delivered 33 jets last month.
Story tags » 767777787Airline OrdersAirbus

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