IT was not so long ago that the chief executive of Airbus, Louis Gallois, was saying that the company was in the worst state it has ever been. Even the casual observer of the company's fortunes knew that production of its banker aircraft of the future, the huge A380, was running two years late and that the long-haul A350 was losing heavily to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in firm orders. Suddenly, however, at this week's Paris Air Show the clouds have lifted for Airbus with confirmation of tentative orders and new commitments for the 500-plus passenger A380 and clear evidence of a renewal of interest in the re-configured A350. This show of confidence in Airbus has come mainly from the Middle East: Quatar Airlines placed a new order for 80 Airbus A 350s and the Dubai airline Emirates added a further eight of the A380 superjumbos to the 40-plus it already has on the books.
Although the scale of Britain's future stake in the Airbus company is still uncertain, the big Quatar order for the Airbus 350 will bring more than five million pounds worth of new business to the Derby-based Rolls-Royce whose engines power it.
Airbus and Boeing are probably once again going head-to-head for new business after a worrying period when the Amercian company has been in the lead. Despite warnings about aviation's contribution to global warming the market for new aircraft seems buoyant.