Boeing, Airbus trade jabs at Farnborough

  • Associated Press
  • Monday, July 19, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

FARNBOROUGH, England – Demand for new passenger and freight aircraft is rebounding after an unprecedented global downturn and in spite of chronically high fuel costs, U.S. manufacturer Boeing Co. and its European rival Airbus said Monday at Britain’s Farnborough International Air Show.

Boeing announced the sale of four 777-300ER planes to Emirates airline, while Airbus predicted it would exceed its planned delivery of new planes this year. In a sign of their intense competition, executives for these two titans of civil aviation defended their respective strategies for future growth and traded accusations about government subsidies.

Embraer, a Brazilian maker of regional jets, announced three sales of its own.

Boeing foresees 5.2 percent annual growth in global passenger traffic and 6.2 percent growth in air cargo business, after nearly three years of lost production. The company estimates that airlines will buy about 25,000 new planes worth $2 trillion over the next two decades, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally said.

Airbus foresees global sales of 16,000 aircraft over the next 20 years, 1,500 of them to China.

Mulally argued that airlines will need aircraft to make longer and more frequent flights and will prefer flying point-to-point between final destinations rather than via congested hubs. Boeing is developing its new 7E7 aircraft to meet this anticipated demand.

About 24 airlines already have paid deposits for more than 200 7E7s, and Boeing expects to convert some of these down payments into firm orders “through the end of this year,” Mulally said.

“These are negotiations we are doing now that will lead to definitive contracts,” he said. The 217-seat 7E7 “Dreamliner” is to be launched in 2008.

Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum also expressed interest in the 7E7, calling it “a fantastic aircraft” but hinting that his airline would prefer if it were larger.

“We are in discussions to see if they can build this aircraft to carry more people or go further,” he. “From the Emirates point of view, we always believed the smallest aircraft in our fleet would be 300 seats or above.”

Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard estimated that air traffic grew by 7 percent last year and would rise by 10 percent this year, even though aviation fuel prices also have increased.

Demand for planes is up, he said. “I can now confirm that we plan to deliver more aircraft than last year, and even more than the 305 aircraft that were the plan.”

In contrast to Boeing, Airbus is betting that future growth will come from super-size planes flying large numbers of passengers between specific cities. It is developing the A380, which will seat about 550 passengers, to fill this niche. The jumbo aircraft is on track to make its test flight during the first three months of next year, Forgeard said.

“You could never make a business case for an aircraft that large,” said Boeing’s Mulally, insisting that his company could satisfy any future demand for larger airplanes by modifying its existing 747.

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