Airbus COO upbeat on 2017 performance

Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams has delivered an upbeat assessment of the company's performance in 2017, less than a week before it will report its commercial orders and deliveries totals.

Speaking at Airbus Group reception in London on 9 January, Williams said 2017 "has been a good year for Airbus", describing it as "busy and eventful".

Williams says negotiations linked to the European company's acquisition of Bombardier's CSeries programme are "progressing well", and that the development represents a "win-win situation" for both parties. Referring to the proposed deal – which is a consequence of its US rival's attempts to halt sales of the Canadian-designed type in its home market – he quips: "I'd like to thank Boeing for their help in achieving it."

Programme highlights last year included the A350-1000's certification and first flight of the A330neo, but Williams points to ongoing issues with the A320neo programme, which led to large numbers of aircraft being parked at its Hamburg and Toulouse sites awaiting their CFM International Leap-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines.

"We have slightly slowed down [A320neo-family] production at the beginning of this year to allow our engine guys to catch up," he says, adding: "The good news is they're now beginning to get on top of those technical issues. I look forward to us getting back on the path to ramp-up again." Despite such teething problems, A320-family sales remain "very strong", he notes.

Williams did not disclose Airbus's commercial orders and deliveries totals, details of which will be announced in Toulouse on 15 January, but says "there was a lot of hard work done last year – especially in the last two months of the year" and alludes to "another record finish for us".

Flight Fleets Analyzer data indicates that the company ended the year having delivered at least 704 commercial aircraft: an increase from the 688 achieved in 2016, and slightly above its own forecast of 700 units.

Meanwhile, referring to the UK's ongoing discussions over its planned departure from the EU in 2019, Williams says that for Airbus's 15,000 employees at 25 sites in the UK, "focusing on performance is the biggest thing they can do to protect the long-term future".

Williams also points to recent support received from the UK government which helped Airbus to close a 25-unit A350 deal with Turkish Airlines, and says this relationship should be strengthened. "With the very aggressive US government, clearly we are going to need more than ever the European governments to stand up and counter that fairly naked political pressure that will be found in every commercial campaign and every part of our business," he notes.

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