Airbus orders flying high as A340 attracts buyers

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AIRBUS, the European passenger aircraft manufacturer, won almost as many orders in the first quarter of this year as in the whole of 1993, writes David Bowen.

The group said 35 firm orders had been placed, more than three times as many as in the same period last year.

The biggest seller was the four- engined A340, which was launched last year and is designed for low- density, long-haul routes.

Twelve A340s were ordered - six each by Cathay Pacific and Air Canada. The other orders were for narrow-bodied A319s, 320s and 321s. There were, however, no orders for the A330, the short-range sister of the A340.

Airbus said sales of the more expensive A340 were also responsible for higher turnover last year, dollars 8.3bn ( pounds 5.5bn) against dollars 7.6bn in 1992.

Boeing, which won 10 orders in the first quarter, said it preferred to concentrate on deliveries, because of the recent high level of cancellations and reschedulings. Both groups' deliveries were down in the first quarter - Airbus's from 40 to 32 and Boeing's from 93 to 82.

Last year the US group delivered 247 aircraft against Airbus's 38, and said its production backlog at the end of March was 1,156 compared with Airbus's 641.

Boeing said its sales in the first quarter were dollars 6.35bn, 4.5 per cent lower than in the same period last year, while net revenue was down 10 per cent at dollars 292m.