US airlines will keep jumbo sales soaring - Boeing

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The Independent Online

The booming sales Boeing is currently enjoying will continue for at least the next six months, predicts the aeroplane maker's chief executive, Jim McNerney.

"The record orders that our industry has had over the past two years have largely been without the big legacy carriers in the United States and the big legacy carriers in Europe," Mr McNerney said. "When [they] come it will really extend the commercial ordering cycle. We don't see a dramatic change in the market in the next six months." Sales so far have been driven by Asian and discount carriers.

Boeing has received 445 orders for new planes so far this year. Orders are now on the verge of overtaking those of its rival, Airbus, for the first time since 2001. This success has been powered by take-up of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner; the first of these lightweight, fuel-efficient planes are due for delivery in 2008.

Mr McNerney's optimism comes as EADS, the parent company of Airbus, is flailing. A series of delays on Airbus's A380 super jumbo led to the resignation of the heads of EADS and Airbus last Sunday. Airbus has since appointed a new chief executive, Christian Streiff, whose main task is to get the A380 programme back on track.

Mr McNerney, speaking ahead of the Farnborough Air Show later this month, questioned the wider market appeal of the 555-seat A380. "We've said all along that the A380 addressed a niche market. That was a difference of opinion between us and Airbus, and so far we have been a little more right." Boeing and EADS are the only commercial companies that make jumbo jets.

But Mr McNerney acknowledged that Boeing cannot afford to be complacent. It has staked its future on the 787, set to be the first jumbo airliner to be made overwhelmingly of lightweight composite materials. But it has yet to assemble one of the radical new aircraft.

"These new aeroplane developments are difficult - there is always risk to be managed," he said. "We have weight and schedule risks. You wake up every day and worry about it."