Airbus and Boeing delivery rates are expected to continue dropping through to 2004 because of the slower-than-expected economic recovery and continuing market uncertainty, says Pierre Chao, aerospace and defence group managing director of Credit Suisse First Boston.

Airbus, while striving to keep production at levels as high as possible to feed its highly automated assembly line, is expected to end this year with about 293 deliveries, compared with 325 in 2001. This is down on earlier predictions for the year which varied from 313 to 390 before 11 September, 2001.

At the recent Speednews regional and corporate aviation industry suppliers conference, Chao said: "Airbus has 290 identifiable orders for delivery in 2003, but questions remain over the usual deferrals and cancellations." The final number may be closer to 268 against pre-11 September forecasts of 450, he said. The decline is widely expected to stabilise at around 260 by 2004, assuming current trends continue.

The drop is expected to be more drastic for Boeing, which is forecast to see deliveries tumble from the record 527 in 2001 to about 280 next year, and possibly lower in 2004. The year-end tally for 2002 is forecast at around 380, against earlier estimates which ranged from as low as 350 to 510 before the terrorist attacks. Boeing has "252 identifiable orders" for 2003 delivery, says Chao, who describes as "eye-popping" the sudden shortfall in the order backlog for some models.

This is most acute for the 757, which is scheduled for only four deliveries in 2004, and the 767, with only five deliveries for 2005. However, the rate of the latter line is guaranteed because of the forthcoming US Air Force in-flight refuelling tanker contract.

Source: Flight International