Julian Moxon/PARIS

Airbus Industrie comprehensively outsold Boeing for the first time in its 30 year history last year, booking 476 orders worth $30.5 billion. The European consortium's order intake represented 55% of the total order business, with Airbus ending the year 85 orders ahead of its US rival's tally of 391.

As a result, Airbus began this year a whisker away (less than 1%) from holding half of the firm order backlog for aircraft with more than 100 seats. "For the first time, the civil aeronautics industry is on an equal footing with that of the USA," says Noel Forgeard, Airbus chief executive.

In an unprecedented attack on Boeing's method of counting orders, Forgeard has called the Seattle manufacturer's sudden announcement of 163 sales at the end of 1999 as "very substantial creativeness" and has called for a "jointly selected and trustworthy third party" to analyse orders.

"We have 103 firm and written commitments from customers which are in the process of becoming contracts but are not yet considered as such in the very strict sense that Airbus gives to this term," he adds. "If we had added those we would have had a 60% market share in 1999."

Boeing has congratulated Airbus on its success in 1999, but warns that it "underscores the fact that Airbus should no longer require government subsidies to compete in the marketplace". The US manufacturer also maintains that "Airbus has been claiming to have won half or more of the orders since 1994, and yet this year it will deliver around 300 aircraft while we deliver 480. So one wonders when all those orders are going to be turned into aluminium rolling out of the door."

Meanwhile, Forgeard has revealed that Airbus partners have "reached a conclusion" about the final assembly site for the 550-seat A3XX airliner, but declines to say whether it is Toulouse or Hamburg "because we are still settling the fine detail of other aspects of A3XX production".

Recent reports have consistently pointed to Toulouse as the likely choice, with Hamburg taking on all single-aisle production, leaving Toulouse with final assembly of the twin-aisle range.

Source: Flight International