By James Regan
UPDATE 2: Etihad formally cancels order for jet written off during ground tests in 2007.
Airbus sold 58 aircraft in June, the planemaker said on Wednesday, but Etihad Airways formally cancelled an order for an A340-600 long-distance jet that was written off during ground tests at Airbus HQ in 2007.The fresh orders confirmed deals that were virtually all announced at the Paris Air Show and which leave the European planemaker well in front of its arch-rival Boeing for the first half of the year.
The larger-than-expected haul brought to 90 the number of planes Airbus has sold this year before cancellations.
But this is down sharply from 525 orders in the first half of 2008 as global aviation battles its way through recession.
Airbus is aiming for gross orders, before cancellations, of "up to 300" aircraft in 2009 but has acknowledged that this figure looks increasingly out of reach as the year progresses.
Airbus data showed that Abu Dhabi's Etihad had cancelled one of eight outstanding orders for long-distance A340-600 jetliners worth $250 million each at list prices.
An Etihad spokesman said the cancelled order related to an aircraft which rammed into a concrete wall during engine testing at the planemaker's Toulouse headquarters in November 2007, injuring nine people including four seriously.
"Etihad has not deferred or cancelled any of its aircraft orders" other than the damaged A340, the spokesman said.
Among planes due to be delivered, Etihad has 10 Airbus A380s on order with deliveries due to start in 2012.
Several airlines have called for deliveries of their superjumbo planes to be delayed due to the economic slowdown, turning the tables after Airbus initially failed to build the plane according to schedule and was forced to pay compensation.
So far this year, airlines have cancelled orders for 22 Airbus aircraft, leaving the EADS subsidiary with a net order intake of 68 planes.
Boeing sold 85 aircraft between January and June but airlines cancelled orders for 84 aircraft, leaving it with a positive first-half net order balance of one aircraft.
Airbus delivered 49 planes including 38 single-aisle aircraft in June, bringing total first-half deliveries to 254 aircraft.
Boeing delivered 246 aircraft in the first half.
Etihad's A340 order cancellation means Airbus will not be obliged to rebuild the A340, which was damaged beyond repair while it was being prepared for delivery to Etihad in 2007.
The Etihad spokesman declined to discuss the details of any compensation that may have been negotiated. (Reuters)