Airbus claims a record number of aircraft ordered in 2011

Last year saw a record number of aircraft ordered from Airbus as it claimed 54 per cent of the market share by volume.

The EADS-owned company received 1,608 new orders (1,419 net) worth $140bn (£91bn) — beating its own previous record from 2007 at 1,458 orders (1,341 net).

The net order figures recognise the fact that the company has a backlog of around 4,500 orders, some dating back 10 years, of which 189 were cancelled in 2011 due to changing requirements of airlines or, in some case, the ceasing of operations.

‘I think we would not expect to have the same volume of orders this year,’ Alan Pardoe, head of marketing communications at Airbus, told The Engineer. ‘Last year truly was exceptional and, of course, that gives you the momentum to grab the attention of those that didn’t quite get round to ordering last year, but might do so this year.’

Airbus also made a record 534 deliveries to 88 customers (10 new) last year, although the company plans to increase production in 2012, targeting 570 deliveries.

‘We work very diligently with our suppliers to make sure we are going to get the parts on time when we need them. It’s true that as the production rates increase, that puts the pressure on the supply chain and we’ve been quite honest in saying we have to watch it even more vigilantly than ever — but we think it’s manageable,’ said Pardoe.

Airbus acknowledged that the buoyant order figures were largely down to the success of one aircraft — the small, fuel-efficient A320neo, which has proven hugely popular. However, Boeing, Airbus’s main competitor has now re-engineered its rival 737 model and claims the resulting 737 MAX is even more fuel efficient than the A320neo.

‘Boeing will claim a reasonable number of orders for the MAX this year, but they’re still playing catch-up, we will be delivering neos from October 2015 — the 737 MAX is due sometime in 2017,’ said Pardoe.

Airbus also rebuffed claims that production is being shifted away from the UK after a bid for work on wings for the A320 by UK-based GKN was rejected in favour of a South Korean company.

‘Our factories in the UK are working harder than ever because of the order backlog and increasing production rates… we would anticipate 500–600 additional jobs will be created in the UK this year,’ said Pardoe.