Airbus 'exceeds targets' ahead of A350 take off

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Media captionBBC Wales business correspondent Brian Meechan got an exclusive look on board

Airbus has said it "exceeded its targets for 2014" and beaten its rival, US aircraft giant Boeing, for numbers of orders.

It comes as the first commercial flight of its new A350 airliner is due to take off later this week.

Eighty of the aircraft, whose wings are made at Broughton, Flintshire, have been bought by Qatar Airways.

The company added that "the best days lie ahead" for the A380, whose wings are also made in north Wales.

Airbus announced on Tuesday that it had won 1,456 net orders last year, down from 1,503 in 2013 - but above Boeing's total of 1,432.

It means it has enough orders on its books for its aircraft for the next nine years.

However, Boeing remains ahead on the number of planes delivered - 723 aircraft compared to Airbus's 629.

Analysis by Brian Meechan, BBC Wales business correspondent.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Fabrice Brégier said he was 'pleased and proud' the A350 project challenge had been met

All in all it's been a good year for Airbus and its aircraft division.

And that means good news for the 6,000 workers employed at its Broughton site.

July's Farnborough Air Show saw it secure £35bn in orders over three days.

The company's significance to the Welsh and UK economy was recognised by a Queen's Award for Enterprise and financial support from the UK and Welsh governments to modernise facilities at Broughton and help train its workforce.

The latest Airbus model, the A350, takes to the skies this week as it begins flying passengers on the Doha to Frankfurt route.

Qatar Airways showed off its new acquisition with a special trip from Heathrow to Broughton on Monday.

Life for the largest plane in the fleet, the A380, has been a little more turbulent.

The company's chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm said the aircraft manufacturer would have to fit more efficient engines from 2018 to make it more attractive or stop making it altogether.

It caused a storm amongst Airbus customers and the company was quick to backtrack on the remarks.

The company's chief executive, Fabrice Brégier's comments today that the A380's "best days are ahead of it" will be welcome news not just for Broughton but for the Welsh economy as a whole.

Image copyright Airbus

Qatar's new A350-900 was put through its paces with a flight from Heathrow over Broughton and Airbus's other plant at Filton near Bristol with invited guests.

Its wings - the largest in civil aviation - and fuselage are made of carbon fibre, which aims to save up to 25% in fuel consumption.

This is designed to appeal to airlines in saving them money.

The 314-seater aircraft is in competition with Boeing and its 787 Dreamliner.

Toulouse-based Airbus built a new £400m plant in Flintshire making the new wings in 2011, securing 6,000 jobs.

It also builds the A380 superjumbo, the largest passenger airliner in the world.

After the company hinted last month it might halt production in 2018 Mr Brégier said there were 152 of the aircraft in the air and he was confident for the future.

"Everyone who has flown the A380, loves the A380," he added.

Mr Brégier said he expects demands to grow for it with the industry doubling in size every 10 to 15 years.

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