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Challenges ahead for Airbus

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February 1st 2018

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Saved by the bell. Or at least by Emirates Airline. Read More » Only days after retiring Airbus Commercial Aircraft chief operating officer customers, John Leahy, publicly admitted the A380 production line could close unless a customer like Emirates did not buy more of the very large planes, the two parties made it across the line with a $16 billion order for 20 of the type plus 16 options. In return, Emirates won a commitment from Airbus to keep the A380 production line open for a minimum of 10 years.

Closing down the A380 line would have been a massive blow to Airbus as its proceeds through a management transition that has resulted in the resignation of chief operating officer and president of Airbus’ commercial aircraft division, Fabrice Bregier, 56, and the pending retirement of sales chief, John Leahy. Bregier’s successor is Guillaume Faury, 49, previously the chief executive of Airbus Helicopters.

Eric Schulz, from Rolls-Royce civil aerospace, is stepping into the very large shoes of Leahy as the commercial aircraft arm’s chief of sales.

The search also is on for a replacement for Tom Enders, 59. The Airbus group chief executive has announced he will leave Airbus when his current contract expires in April next year. And then there is Bombardier.

When all the legal hurdles are cleared for Airbus’s 50.01% purchase of Bombardier’s C Series jet program, the Toulouse manufacturer must prepare for a Boeing challenge to its Canadian 100-120 seat airliner investment, including some form of partnership between Seattle and Embraer.

Elsewhere, China, Japan and China and Russia in partnership are intent on taking market share from Airbus with their home grown airliners. China’s COMAC alone has an order book of 600 plus for its mid-size C919 aircraft and is working on a larger airliner.

These are just some of the challenges ahead for the new leaders of Airbus. The industry spotlight never moves far from Airbus or Boeing, but with such a significant management shift ahead in Toulouse, Airbus strategy and products will be under even greater scrutiny at both airlines and at its manufacturing competitors in the next 12 months. ■

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