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Airbus leads Boeing, delay in A400M remains


Airbus Headquarter in Colomiers, France.

SEVILLE, SPAIN (AP): Airbus Tuesday said it beat rival Boeing in aircraft production in 2009, maintaining its place as the world's largest planemaker, but warned that a troubled military transport programme is endangering the rest of the company.

CEO Tom Enders said Airbus should cancel the delayed and over-budget A400M project if customer governments fail to commit more funds soon because it is swallowing money and valuable resources.

The issue overshadowed the news that Airbus delivered a record 498 aircraft in 2009, above its 2008 tally of 483 and Boeing's score of 481.

The increase masks what Enders called a "big disappointment" with Airbus' newest plane, the A380 superjumbo, which has suffered from costly delays. Airbus only managed to deliver 10 A380s last year, well below its initial goal of 18, and Enders said the programme will be "a financial liability" for years to come.

At the same time, the hulking gray A400M turboprop, which made its first flight only last month, is costing euro100 million (USD 145 million) each month and valuable engineering resources, Enders said.

"Part of my responsibility as CEO is when you see a clear danger coming up, that you speak up, that you suggest action, that you take action and that is what I am doing," he told The Associated Press.

The money being spent on the A400M could be used on other Airbus projects: it wants to double production of the A380 to 20 planes this year. Airbus is also working on a new widebody, the A350 XWB, and is thinking about fitting a new engine to its A320 single-aisle workhorse.

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