Boeing, Airbus Struggle To Meet Demand
By Emma Vandore, AP Business Writer
Manufacturing.Net - January 16, 2008
Together, the rivals won a record 2,754 orders last year. Airbus said Wednesday that its
backlog will increase this year — even as new orders slow — and its passenger jets are
mostly sold out through 2011 or even later. Both companies have wrestled to get new models
to the airlines lining up to buy them. Boeing Co. said Wednesday that it was going to push
back the inaugural flight for its much-anticipated 787 by as much as three months, delaying
the test flight until the end of the second quarter, because of supply chain problems and slow
progress on the assembly line. The delay means Boeing won't be able to begin delivering the
airplane until early 2009, instead of late this year.
Airbus' flagship A380 superjumbo has been delayed as well, and the company had to redesign
its planned competitor to the 787, the A350. Airbus said it beat its U.S. rival in deliveries last
year 453 to 441, though it won fewer orders, 1,341 to Boeing's 1,413.
Despite expectations that high oil prices and a global credit squeeze will hurt the airline
industry, both companies are still riding a three-year boom in the sector, partly fueled by new
demand from Asian carriers. ''Cycles in this industry used to be peaks and, I guess, sort of
canyons or big troughs,'' said Airbus' chief salesman John Leahy. ''Now it looks like we are
getting more hills and valleys.'' The last canyon followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which
together with high jet fuel prices and health scares like SARS caused passenger figures to
drop. While traffic is still expected to grow in 2008, a shaky economic outlook means airlines
will likely remain conservative in placing new orders. Airbus CEO Thomas Enders said
Wednesday that he expects ''demand to continue to be strong'' in 2008, though not at the level
Scott Carson, president and chief executive of Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, has also
said he expects fewer orders this year. Last month, he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that if
Boeing and Airbus combine for 1,000 to 1,200 orders, 2008 ''would kind of be a normal year.''
Carson was not available for comment Wednesday.
Leahy played down Airbus' loss in the order race, saying the record number of orders was still