EADS says Airbus deliveries to stay same in 2009


Aerospace group EADS expects its commercial planemaking arm Airbus to deliver about the same number of planes this year as last year, CE Louis Gallois said in Hanoi, Vietnam, earlier today.

Airbus delivered a record 483 aircraft in 2008, 30 more than in 2007.

Gallois told a news conference in Hanoi that it was difficult to predict 2010 deliveries now, but things should be clearer in the second half of this year, Reuters adds.

He added 2010 will be a crucial year and the planemaker was prepared to face all scenarios.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a bumper plane order battle brightened a depressed outlook for plane manufacturers overnight as United Airlines was reported to be seeking 150 jets despite fresh warnings of industry losses.

The Wall Street Journal reported that United Airlines had asked Boeing and Airbus to put forward competing bids for up to 150 new airliners, contrasting with many who are axeing or delaying purchases.

The deal could be worth more than $10 billion for the two aircraft makers, Reuters said, adding that United sent a formal request to Boeing and Airbus on Tuesday.

Airbus declined comment but shares in parent EADS initially rose more than 2 percent before trimming gains.

Most airlines are shedding capacity to cope with a steep fall in demand and many have deferred orders to conserve cash and in the absence of financing for final delivery payments.

The head of global airlines body IATA told Reuters earlier that plane orders could fall 30 percent in 2010.

In another development, Brazilian search teams are scouring choppy Atlantic waters for remains of a crashed Air France Airbus A330-200 after the first debris retrieved by helicopter turned out to be trash. 228 people died in the crash on Monday.

The New York Times reports that Airbus yesterday issued a warning to airlines that pilots should follow “established procedures” if they suspect airspeed indicators are not working.

The warning followed a flurry of speculation that the plane may have crashed because it few into a storm too fast, Reuters reports.

But Brazilian and French officials cautioned that the evidence was far too slim to offer explanations.

“With each passing moment the possibilities of finding bodies decreases,” Brazilian Air Force Brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso told reporters in Recife, the coastal city where wreckage from the crash would be brought.

“We were initially concentrating on searching for bodies and survivors, but now we’re focused on finding debris that can help in the investigation,” he added.

The New York Times said Airbus told clients “there was inconsistency between the different measured airspeeds” in the Airbus 330 that crashed, though the company noted it was not prejudging the investigation’s outcome.

Other reports from the Wall Street Journal and France‘s Le Monde both pointed to air speed, combined with thunderstorms in a notoriously dangerous tropical area, as a potential factor in the crash that has baffled aviation experts.

Airbus earlier declined to comment.

A luggage pallet and two buoys were pulled by helicopters from the crash area about 1100 km (680 miles) northeast of Brazil‘s coast, but investigators later determined they weren’t part of the jet.

Searchers have found several debris sites spread out over 90 km (56 miles), a sign the plane may have broken up in the air. Cardoso said they have yet to collect any debris from the Airbus.

Air France Flight 447 was en route to Paris when it plunged into the Atlantic early Monday morning, four hours after leaving Rio de Janeiro.

Eleven air force planes have been searching over a 6000 sq km (2300 sq mile) area from a base on the islands of Fernando de Noronha, off Brazil‘s northeastern coast.

Several hundred relatives and friends of the passengers crammed into the Candelaria church in Rio yesterday morning, crying and hugging each other.

“Those who are missing are here in our hearts and in our memories,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told them.

Experts have been mystified by the sudden crash of a modern airliner operated by three experienced pilots. Determining what happened may be difficult because the plane’s flight data and voice recorders may be at the bottom of the ocean.

The plane sent a series of automatic messages in the space of four minutes indicating system failures and a sharp dive, specialist magazine Aviation Herald said on its website, citing Air France sources.

The messages started arriving at 0210 GMT on Monday, indicating the automatic pilot had been disengaged, and ended at 0214 with an advisory that the cabin was at “vertical speed.”

The crash appears to have been sudden and brutal.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo said a transatlantic airline pilot reported seeing a flash of white light at the same time the Air France flight disappeared.

“Suddenly we saw in the distance a strong, intense flash of white light that took a downward, vertical trajectory and disappeared in six seconds,” the pilot of an Air Comet flight from Lima to Madrid told his company, the newspaper reported.