A SOLID performance in the defence sector and increasing demand for Airbus wings helped British Aerospace to a first-half pre-tax profit of £215 million ($333 million), up by 38% on a year ago.

The loss-making Commercial Aerospace business continued to be adversely affected by the poor performance of the Jetstream regional turboprop unit, although the Avro regional-jet operation "-remains on track for break-even next year", says BAe chief executive Sir Richard Evans.

Annual production of the Jetstream 41 turboprop at Prestwick is being reduced from 30 to 20 aircraft and "-remains under review", says Evans, although Prestwick will benefit from substantial work on the Nimrod 2000 replacement maritime-patrol aircraft programme.

BAe notes that although sales of Airbus narrowbodies continue apace, first-half deliveries of the more-lucrative A330/340 widebody family fell to 18 compared with 33 in the same period of 1995.

The defence order backlog stood at £9.2 billion at the end of the first half, says Evans, with the recently awarded Nimrod 2000 and Storm Shadow conventionally armed stand-off missile (CASOM) contracts having since added £2 billion to its orders.

Source: Flight International