Airbus Chief Says A330 Stands to Gain From 787 Grounding Woes

Airbus SAS Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier predicted the A330 wide-body aircraft, which began service two decades ago, will gain momentum because of Boeing Co.’s difficulties on its competing 787 Dreamliner.

“Clearly the fact that the new generation comes late and has teething problems at the beginning means we’ll have more success with this aircraft,” Bregier said in an interview in Davos today. The CEO said he doesn’t predict the investigation of the 787 faults will have a knock-on effect on certification of Airbus’s A350, as they don’t share the same architecture.

Airbus had so far been wary of exploiting Boeing’s woes for its own sales campaigns, and Bregier expressed solidarity with the U.S. manufacturer at a press conference last week, saying the Dreamliner should return to service as soon as possible. Airbus has pointed to its own share of technical challenges on recent programs, including its flagship A380 double-decker developing cracks in the wing structure.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Dreamliner Jan. 16 after two lithium ion battery failures, including at least one battery fire. Even before the second incident, the agency had announced a comprehensive review of the design, manufacturing, and assembly of the plane.

Bregier said Airbus will draw the lessons of its own failures and those of Boeing in developing the A350, which is set for first flight by the middle of this year and entry into service before 2015. Like the 787, the wide-body A350 consists in large parts of lighter composite materials.

Boeing originally brought out the 787 to challenge the twin-engine A330, which had won three quarters of the market in its category against Boeing’s 767. Airbus retaliated with the A350, which targets both the 787, with 270 to 350 seats, and the larger and popular 777, which can seat as many as 375.

Airbus has sold more A330s since the 787 was introduced than before. It delivered more than 100 last year and Bregier today said the Toulouse-based planemaker will continue to increase deliveries. Airbus has been planning to raise production to 10 a month from 9, and says it may go higher if China clears approvals for 45 A330s.

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