Airbus Forecasts Faster Recovery for Industry

COLOMIERS, France

The global aircraft industry will recover faster than expected, according to European manufacturer Airbus, which on Monday predicted about $3.2 trillion (euro2.4 trillion) in new passenger and freighter planes will be needed over the next 20 years.

The figure translates to nearly 26,000 aircraft, up from its earlier forecast for 25,000.

Growing interest in more eco-friendly planes, strong growth in new markets and the expansion of low-cost airlines in Asia will help propel demand over the two decades, Airbus said at a presentation near its headquarters in southwest France.

The 2010-2029 market forecast came after several recent setbacks for the European consortium.

On Nov. 4, a Qantas A380 superjumbo - the company's star plane - made a safe emergency landing in Singapore in what was the most significant safety issue yet for the giant jumbo since it began passenger flights in 2007.

In recent days, media reports emerged that a French investigating judge had placed Airbus' chief operating officer, John Leahy, under investigation - a step short of formal charges - for insider trading.

The long-standing judicial probe has targeted several executives of Airbus and its parent company EADS. Last year, a similar investigation by the French market regulator cleared them, saying there was no evidence they used knowledge of delays to the A380 superjumbo program when selling shares or exercising stock options worth millions of euros (dollars) in 2005 and early 2006.

Leahy said he was disappointed that a judge was pursuing the case when the French regulator, the AMF, had already cleared those involved.

"We were all shown to be innocent by the AMF, who are the real experts in this," Leahy told reporters.

EADS released a statement saying it had "full confidence" in those involved and said it was convinced they would be "be proved innocent once again."

Addressing the Qantas emergency landing, Leahy criticized engine-maker Rolls-Royce's public relations and communications after the incident, suggesting the company hadn't been forthcoming enough. An oil leak had caused the plane's Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine to disintegrate in mid-air - an event that led to a global safety review of the world's biggest jetliner.

But Leahy said Rolls-Royce builds good engines and "they will get this fixed, they have identified the problem and they're implementing the fixes.

"Unfortunately it takes a bit more time than everybody would have liked," he said.

In its global industry review, Airbus' long-term figures were slightly higher than last year's, when it forecast that 25,000 new passenger and freighter aircraft valued at $3.1 trillion would be delivered from 2009 to 2028.

The change reflects "a slightly higher growth rate of 4.8 percent compared to 4.7 percent in 2009," the company said.

In July, Airbus' Chicago-based competitor Boeing Co. said during its annual long-range forecast that the global industry will need $3.6 trillion in new aircraft over the next two decades, or about 30,900 new jets.

The two companies have slightly different criteria on the size of jets they include in their forecasts. Airbus looks at only jets of 100 seats and above, while Boeing includes planes of 90 seats and above.


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