Boeing, Airbus struggle in meltdown crises

Airbus will announce its latest progress of the A350 double aisle platform at an annual press conference on Thursday. Airbus image

PARIS (BNS): Boeing and Airbus will struggle to keep their production lines thriving and can resort to drastic measures to remain competent in 2009. The two aviation giants are considering hard options.

While Airbus is planning to cut production of its largest selling brand – single aisle A320s – Boeing wants to end problem ridden development phase of Dreamliner 787.

The decision by airlines across the world to defer deliveries of aircraft last year has put an extra burden on the manufacturers. Some of the big products like the Dreamliner and A350 have failed to take off despite big promises to customers.

Airbus will announce its latest progress of the A350 double aisle platform at an annual press conference on Thursday. But before that happens, there are reports suggesting that it is planning to produce less number of A320s. As of now, Airbus produces 36 A320 family aircraft (that includes A318, A319, A320 and A321) per month. It was planning to increase it to 40 but sustaining 36 itself has become a problem.

Together with Boeing 737s, the aircraft rule the aviation world. Boeing and Airbus has a backlog of around 5000 of these narrow body planes from airlines across the world. The production will continue to be low in 2009 and also in the subsequent two years.

For Boeing, the biggest headache is Dreamliner project. The highly publicised 787 is not expected to come out of the stable for another two years. Independent aviation experts already believe that Boeing’s problem with 787s could be far more complex than what Airbus faced with its super jumbo A380s. The problem with Dreamliner is in certain design flaws which have yet to be addressed and it is causing the delay in delivery. Boeing has taken orders for more than 900 of these aircraft promoting it as the most fuel efficient machine in its category. It would be a challenge to deliver all the 900 aircraft in time.

Nobody knows the problems in mass producing aircraft better than Airbus. It managed to produce only 12 A380s last year and might struggle to increase the number to 21 this year. The speeding up of production is a challenge by any standard. Whether Boeing would be able to deliver 900-odd 787s in time is anybody's guess.

The A350 XWB – the Airbus aircraft designed as a competition for 787 – is much better placed. Airbus will reveal the complete details of the project, which is believed to be progressing well, to the world tomorrow from Toulouse.

Airbus has 478 orders for A350s. It had to change the design after customers were not satisfied with its earlier form. The aircraft is expected to enter market in 2013, three years after projected delivery of first 787.

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