Airbus woes bring no joy, Boeing says

EVERETT – The Boeing Co. is not rejoicing at the problems besetting its European rival Airbus, Boeing’s top airliner salesman said.

“We don’t particularly like to see them struggling like this,” said Scott Carson, Boeing vice president of commercial airplane sales. “It’s not good for our customers and it’s not good for the industry.”

Carson spoke in Everett on Friday, as officials with Airbus parent company EADS met with a French government minister to discuss changes in how Airbus is managed after last week’s disclosure of further delays in delivering the A380 superjumbo jet to airlines.

Airbus said problems with wiring the 555-seat jet would mean a delay of six months or more for all but the first A380. The deliveries already are running six months behind the initial schedule.

The disclosure also triggered an investigation into multi-million-dollar stock deals involving Noel Forgeard, the French co-chief executive of EADS, who, along with members of his family and six other directors, exercised stock options in the weeks before Airbus managers ordered an internal study of production problems with the A380.

Boeing can’t afford to gloat over Airbus’ problems, Carson said during a breakfast speech to the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce.

Boeing knows from its 747 experience that “big airplanes are really hard,” he said.

Boeing also is pushing hard to meet its own tight delivery schedule for the 787, he noted. “We are not, I think, so arrogant to think we cannot have a similar path forward.”

“Our focus is on us not stumbling,” Carson added later. “We’ll let Airbus deal with Airbus’ situation.”

Speaking with reporters afterward, Carson said the A380 delays will disrupt the fleet plans of key airlines that buy from both Airbus and Boeing. With those deliveries in flux, it’s hard for them to make decisions on buying more planes, he said.

“You can’t delay a product to a customer for a year and have it be a healthy situation for them,” Carson said.

Both Emirates and Qantas airlines have ordered the A380, and both are considering major Boeing orders, with Emirates considering 50 to 100 787s, while Qantas is said to be studying longer-range 777s.

The Boeing salesman said he doesn’t expect the A380 delays to stimulate more sales of Boeing’s new 747-8. Boeing’s new jumbo jet is 100 seats smaller than the A380.

“It’s a different airplane,” Carson said.

With the announcement coming just last week, it’s been too soon for any airlines to decide how to reorganize their fleets in response, Carson said.

“Those changing fleet plans could result in opportunities (for Boeing sales),” he said. “We haven’t seen that yet.”

On other topics, Carson said that Boeing continues to see strong interest in its new 787, even though it’s already sold out all its planned production into 2012.

The company has firm orders for 360 787s and has sent out proposals to airlines possibly interested in buying 500 more, Carson said.

One of those potential buyers could be United Airlines. Carson said Boeing hosted top executives from the airline this week for its first sales meeting since the industry crisis that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“That was so much fun,” he said. “All we did was talk about the capability of the (787).”

Most airliners need heavy maintenance checks every five or six years, but with the 787, “we told them about an airplane that can go to heavy check every 12 years.”

“They were weeping,” Carson said (although he later clarified that the United executives, while obviously excited, may not have actually shed tears). “With a little luck, we’ll have them back in the door within six or eight months.”

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or corliss@ heraldnet.com.

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