Airbus production to double as it meets orders for 326 planes

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The Independent Online
Airbus Industrie, the European aircraft manufacturer, yesterday announced plans to almost double production over the next two years following a bumper year for orders in 1996.

Deliveries will rise from126 last year to 183 this year and some 220 next as Airbus rides the crest of a boom in demand for new jets.

Boeing of the US, the world's largest plane maker, has also announced plans to more than double output from its Seattle base and has been taking on extra staff at a rate of 1,000 a month to cope with increased production levels.

The Airbus announcement is a boost for British Aerospace, which owns a 20 per cent stake in the four-nation consortium and makes wings for the Airbus range at its Chester plant in North Wales. It came as Airbus announced that it won total firm orders last year for 326 aircraft worth $23.6bn. Boeing is expected to announce shortly that its orders last year reached about 650, worth $48bn - the second-highest on record.

Meanwhile Airbus said its four partners were likely to sign a memorandum of understanding this week, paving the way for its conversion into a full commercial limited company.

At present, Airbus is structured as a Groupment d'Interet Economique, in which the four partners charge Airbus for assembly work and account separately for profit and loss, leaving Airbus as little more than a design and sales operation.

The binding MOU will commit the partners to placing their Airbus manufacturing operations into the new company.

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