Airbus has beaten its target for more than 200 A350 "orders and commitments" in 2005 by at least 10%, EADS co-chief executive Noël Forgeard said today.
Forgeard did not specify how many would be officially classed as firm orders when the Toulouse manufacturer reveals its year-end figures on 17 January.
Airbus is chasing Boeing's year-end gross order total of 1,029 commercial aircraft and the number of A350 "commitments" it converts to declared orders is crucial to which manufacturer wins the orders race.
Speaking to the press at a New Year lunch in Paris, Forgeard (pictured left) said the contest would be "very close". He added: "We will have to wait until the seventeenth to see if one did better than the other slightly."
Forgeard also hinted he is still keen to pursue a merger with Thales. Referring to quotes he made to the media early last year, he said: "I cannot comment on public companies but ... I don't usually change my mind." All EADS managers, he said, had been instructed not to comment on the matter.
He said too that the price of fuel would be the main factor in determining how fast industry moves to developing an aircraft overwhelmingly built using composites. "If fuel is very expensive, you need an ultra-light aircraft, even if the cost of manufacture is higher," he said.
Airbus will spend €450 million ($540 million) in 2007-08 in developing composite technology. "Low cost industrial composites are the big challenge," he said. "But we will be ready to react."
EADS is to aim for annual sales of around €40 billion in the next five years, compared with sales of more than €33 billion for last year, Forgeard said.
MURDO MORRISON / PARIS
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Source: Flight International