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Airbus and Boeing concur on likelihood of 2010 recovery

Airbus and Boeing may have endured their worst Paris air show for a generation sales-wise, but both were unanimous in their belief that the end of the gloom is in sight.

"It feels like we're bouncing off the bottom," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson. "It feels to us like the middle of next year is when we will see growth return to the industry."

Airbus's chief executive Tom Enders concurs: "We think [orders] will pick up again next year."

Carson cites the latest economic data that Boeing tracks for his upbeat view, but caveats this with the warning that "there is certainly no certainty in being able to predict the future".

However, both airframers have effectively written off 2009 from an orders perspective. Carson says the industry faces "a different year" to the boom times during each of the 12 months that preceded it, while Enders says that it is "obvious" that orders will come down dramatically from the 900 it booked in 2008.

At the beginning of 2009, Airbus executives jokingly gazed into a crystal ball to forecast around 300 orders for the year. However, with just 32 firm orders secured to the end of May, it concedes it has much ground to make up and chief operating officer customers John Leahy appears to now be regretting that prediction, saying: "I'm getting new glasses."

With the collapse in sales, both airframers are emphasising the importance of their big backlogs, and the fact that demand for new deliveries has so far remained strong.

Enders points out that Airbus's order backlog of 3,500 aircraft gives it seven years of production at an annual rate of 500 deliveries, saying: "This is why we are fairly relaxed about the order intake this year."

Boeing's backlog is at a similar level which Carson values at $265 billion. "The value of the backlog built over the last three to four years is going to be realised [this year] in delivery of that backlog, not the generation of it."

Both Carson and Enders still see no threats on their radars large enough to justify a cut production, despite the clamour from certain sectors for rates to come down.

"If the economic conditions have bottomed and there is a recovery and the available capital to support it, then I think we have a shot at getting through and holding the rates where they are," says Carson.

"People question how can it be that we and our competitor are still running production very high," says Enders. "We have customers who want the aircraft, and we can help customers with financing on a selective basis."

Airbus delivered a record 483 aircraft last year and although it has arrested its ramp-up, is on course to deliver a similar number this year.

"The whole supply chain depends on us," says Enders. "When we talk about high production rates we should not forget that the best support we can give our suppliers is to have a relatively high, stable, delivery stream."

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