Boeing boss Carson upbeat for the industry

One of the aviation industry’s top executives on Sunday shrugged off suggestions that this year’s Farnborough airshow would be a bleak affair.

Scott Carson, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, acknowledged that the industry was facing tough times as fuel prices soared and key economies slowed.

At the time of last year’s Paris airshow Carson said that global economic growth had been robust and fuel prices were $65 to $75 a barrel below where they are now. Airlines are now struggling not only with higher fuel prices, but with a price volatility that makes it more difficult to develop their responses.

However, the Boeing executive insisted that the gloom could be overdone. “Bleak? I think that would be the wrong conclusion.”

Carson said Boeing’s order backlog for commercial aircraft stood at more than $270-billion, covering in excess of 3 600 aircraft. Boeing and its arch-rival Airbus have clocked up new orders for almost 500 aircraft each this year.

There has been widespread speculation that some airlines would be forced to cancel or reschedule their orders as they struggle with soaring fuel costs. But Carson said that only three carriers had asked to reschedule orders covering fewer than 50 aircraft and the impact would be offset by airlines that wanted to bring orders forward.

Carson added that the rise in fuel prices would also mean increasing pressure on carriers to replace older aircraft with newer fuel-efficient planes.

Even before the show officially opened there was good news for the Northern Ireland economy. The Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace said that it would invest £500-million in its east Belfast plant to design and manufacture the wings for its new 110-130-seat C Series family of airliners. It will be the largest-ever single investment by a company in Northern Ireland and will safeguard 800 jobs.

Bombardier announced that the launch customer for the C Series, Lufthansa, had provisionally ordered 30 planes with an option for 30 more. The C Series will sell for $46,7-million each.

Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland secretary, and John Hutton, secretary of state for business, welcomed the investment, claiming it underlined how devolution was working to attract jobs to Northern Ireland. The government provided £52-million for the project, which is mainly repayable launch funding.

The project also aims to create a new centre of excellence in Belfast for aircraft wing manufacturing and possibly increase the workforce to more than 1 100 jobs if further work is secured, the Northern Ireland Office said on Sunday.

“The UK’s aerospace industry is world class,” Hutton said. “This investment in Belfast demonstrates the government’s commitment to supporting high-tech, high-skilled aerospace companies in the UK and ensure we remain a world leader in this sector. “

Bombardier Aerospace Belfast is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bombardier, the world’s third-largest civil aerospace company. The company is based in the constituency of Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson. He described the investment as “fantastic news” for the area. His deputy, Martin McGuinness, said Bombardier’s announcement would benefit the local economy for years to come. - guardian.co.uk

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