Haunted by plane crash, Airbus issues slowdown warning

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it may not reach its sales targets for aircrafts in 2009, ahead of the opening of the Paris Air Show. The unexplained crash of one of its A330 models on June 1 has cast a cloud over the annual industry event.


AFP - Aircraft maker Airbus warned Sunday that orders this year could fall well short of the targeted 300, as it geared up for a Paris Air Show with spirits dampened by the puzzling crash of one of its A330 models.

"This ... air show is overshadowed by two events," Airbus head Thomas Enders told a seminar here, recalling the still unexplained loss June 1 over the Atlantic of an Air France A330 and a deep financial crisis that has whacked global aviation.

Enders, who last week described the A330 as "one of the safest planes ever built" and appealed for patience during the accident probe, said that while Airbus still hoped to receive around 300 orders this year the final tally "could be considerably lower."

From January 1 to May 31 this year Airbus had received 11 orders and 21 cancellations. The company in 2008 overtook US rival Boeing with 777 orders and 483 deliveries.

"Priority number one is to secure deliveries and support our customers," Enders said, stressing that 2010 and 2011 would be critical years for the airline sector as it struggles to overcome the impact of global recession.

Faced with dwindling demand and rising oil prices, the airline industry, according to the International Air Transport Association, could lose 9.0 billion dollars (6.4 billion euros) this year, almost double an estimate made three months ago.

Not surprisingly the biennial Paris Air Show, which starts Monday at Le Bourget near Paris, will not be "an air show of orders," said Louis Gallois, chief exective at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), the Airbus parent company.

In addition to questions raised by the loss of the Air France jet, which took the lives of all 228 board, Airbus must also contend with major delays to its A400M military transporter.

Gallois hailed as "good news" a decision by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to allow six more months of discussion on the fate of the 20-billion-euro A400M program, which is now at least three years behind schedule because of technical problems.

France and Germany, along with Spain and Britain, are the principal participants in Airbus.

"My hope is that we could have some kind of agreement before the end of the year," Gallois said.

"France and Germany haven't the capacity to decide alone," he added, but they represent "the first stone of the building."

Gallois noted that Britain has some "specific requests ... we will see if we can accommodate some of them."

Clients signed up so far for the A400M are Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg, some of whom have threatened to abandon the deal, forcing EADS to re-negotiate delivery schedules.

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