Boeing and Airbus forecast 40% drop in jet orders

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The Independent Online
BOEING AND Airbus, the world's two leading jet manufacturers, yesterday forecast that orders would fall by 30-40 per cent this year. The two companies blamed the sharp decline in sales on the slowdown in world economies, particularly those in the Far East.

Boeing expects to sell around 400 aircraft this year - down from the 656 orders it received in 1998. The decline in orders from Asian airlines, traditionally important customers for the Boeing 747, is having the most marked effect.

Airbus is forecasting a similar percentage decline in sales. Last year the European consortium won 550 orders. So far this year it has sold 190 aircraft and Noel Foregard , the chief executive of Airbus, forecast that it would end the year above 300.

However, both companies are increasingly optimistic about the long-term outlook for aircraft demand. Boeing will today revise sharply upward its estimate for the jet market over the next 20 years. It is forecasting sales of 20,150 aircraft with a value of $1.4 trillion between 1998 and 2018.

The increase, from last year's forecast of 17,651, is due to a predicted boom in demand for jets in the 50-106 seater range such as the new Boeing 717.

But Boeing has cut further its estimates of the market for super-Jumbos, such as the Airbus A3XX from 430 aircraft to 360.

Airbus yesterday revised upwards the market for the A3XX to 1,500 aircraft but also said the cost of launching the 550-seater jet had risen to $11bn. It will not enter service until 2005 - a year later than planned.

Meanwhile, Airbus has settled a squabble among its partners over the location for the assembly of its new 100-seater A318.

It has decided to assemble the jet in Hamburg but, as a sop to the French, final assembly of some A319s will be shifted from Hamburg back to Toulouse.