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Faury defends Airbus forecasting after A380 disappointment

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury has defended the airframer’s forecast methodology, in the aftermath of the decision to terminate production of the A380.

The airframer had conservatively estimated 20-year demand for nearly 1,300 high-capacity passenger aircraft in 2007, the year the A380 entered service, and was still putting the outlook for 450-seat jets at nearly 1,200 a decade later, despite poor A380 sales.

Airbus disclosed in February that it would end production of the type in 2021 after Emirates – on which A380 production heavily depended – opted to cut back its order backlog, in favour of twinjets.

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Closure of the line was confirmed two months before Faury, who was president of commercial aircraft at the time, took over as Airbus chief.

Speaking during an event in Toulouse on 21 May, Faury said, wryly: “Forecasts are a difficult job, especially when it comes to the future.”

He says the airframer adjusts its global forecasting methods each year, examining the past in order to “take into account what we learn”. But he stresses that the task is not simple.

“There is so much variability in the market,” he says. “So much is happening that was not even on the radar screen the year before.”

Faury points out that Airbus is attempting to predict the business conditions for aircraft programmes with lifetimes of 20, 30 or 40 years.

“Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t,” he says, adding that the airframer sometimes needs to be “humble”.

Faury adds that inaccurate forecasting can have an upside. The A320 was launched on a business case for some 700 aircraft in total.

“Thirty years later and we’re doing 700 a year,” he says. “So it shows that the market is the market – the boom of this industry has been just amazing.

“But there have been changes. For every model, be it the physical model, the behavioural model, the social model, or the market model, you have to try to learn from what you see, what you observe.”

Faury also insists that – despite the weak sales – the A380 has been a “success” for Airbus. “I absolutely believe Airbus wouldn’t be where it is today without the A380,” he says, given that it provided crucial lessons for subsequent programmes, particularly the A350.

“Innovation means taking risks and we want to continue to be that kind of competitor in the market,” says Faury, and refers to a quote attributed to former UK prime minister Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure, without losing your enthusiasm.”

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