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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Airbus orders fall behind Boeing
A380 plane in production
Production delays have hit the giant Airbus A380 passenger jet
European aircraft maker Airbus has fallen behind arch US rival Boeing in the number of new orders for planes.

The firm's chief commercial officer, John Leahy, told the BBC that Airbus orders were currently running at "about 20% or 25% compared to Boeing".

However, he insisted that the firm remained on course to deliver more planes than Boeing this year.

Airbus has been hit by production setbacks with its giant A380 jet and senior management problems.

Until recently, the firm had been leading Boeing in total passenger jet orders.

But reports on Wednesday suggested that Airbus orders for the first six months of the year would be in the region of 145 to 150 planes, compared with about 450 at Boeing.

'Industrial problems'

The current year has so far proved to be a tough one for Airbus, with delay problems to deliveries of the A380 superjumbo followed by controversy at its Franco-German parent firm EADS.

Earlier this month, EADS co-chief executive Noel Forgeard stepped down in the wake of an insider trading scandal, while Airbus boss Gustav Humbert resigned over the A380 delays.

Mr Leahy denied management problems at EADS were hitting sales of new Airbus planes.

However, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that delays to production of the A380 remained a major concern for the firm.

"There is no doubt about our industrial problems in the building of the aircraft. It's clearly an embarrassment and cost to us," he said.

Mr Leahy said Airbus still hoped to "catch up" with Boeing on new orders for planes by the end of the year, and suggested the firm was close to securing two new customers for the A380.

"We would expect that several existing (A380) customers will follow up with additional orders before the end of the year," he said.

Mr Leahy added that plans by British defence firm BAE Systems to conduct an audit of Airbus, aimed at helping it decide whether to sell its 20% stake in the planemaker, had not shaken confidence at the firm.

"The fact that shareholders come and go in a large international company doesn't affect the customer directly. What affects the customer is the quality of the aircraft," he said.

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