Airbus chief salesman John Leahy expects aircraft orders in the coming years to return to levels that are similar to annual deliveries, following a record year for sales in 2007.
Leahy, chief operating officer customers, said in an interview in Bangkok on the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines' annual meeting that "I am looking at next year in terms of orders coming back more towards rate of delivery, rather than a massive amount of backlog booking".
He says this suggests he is looking at "500 some-odd" aircraft orders.
"I don't think the backlog can keep growing at anywhere near this rate," he says. "We have to move back the trend line. The trend line should be somewhere in that range of 500 deliveries."
He adds: "In 2005 it was 1,111 orders for Airbus, which was a record for the entire industry ever. We have just beaten it, so by definition it is a record year already. I am comfortable we will exceed 1,200 this year."
Leahy says Airbus's production lines are now sold out for several years, adding that the first available single-aisle delivery slots are in 2013. There are "maybe three" A330 slots available in 2012, the A340 line is sold out to the end of 2011, the first available A380 slots are in 2012 and the first A350 slots are available in 2017, he says.
"On the A350 we said in January that we would have 200 aircraft by the end of the year. We are now at 300," he says.
"We said in January that we would sell 20 [A380s] this year and there were a few chuckles. Well we are now up to 37, so it's about double the rate. If you think that the full production is about 45 [per year], that's close to a full year's worth of production. That says the second wave has more than started for A380 sales. The wave is building."