By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus delivered more aircraft in August than for the same period in any previous year, its top planemaking executive said on Tuesday, in a breakthrough that improves its chances of meeting 2016 targets after earlier delays in receiving parts.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of French business leaders, Fabrice Bregier did not give numbers for total deliveries, which have not yet been completed, but said Airbus had hit a crucial target of six A350 deliveries this month.
"We tend to deliver a lot of planes in the last few days of the month, but what I can already tell you is that it will be the best month of August in Airbus's history, in terms of the number of planes delivered," said Bregier, who is president and chief executive of the planemaking unit of Airbus Group<AIR.PA>.
Its previous busiest August was in 2013, when it passed 47 aircraft to customers. For 2016 as a whole, it targets at least 650 deliveries, up 2.4 percent from last year.
Until now, problems with supplies of cabin equipment have hampered deliveries of Europe's newest long-haul jet, the A350, leaving Airbus well short of its full-year target of 50 A350 deliveries with just 15 handed over to customers by the end of July.
Airbus has also experienced delays in bringing out a new version of its best-selling A320 due to engine problems and asked staff to work overtime during the traditionally quiet summer to help catch up on deliveries of both models.
"On the A350, we reached our objective which was to deliver six aircraft during the month," Bregier said.
"This morning I attended the delivery of the first A350 to Thai Airways. That doesn't mean the (annual target of) 50 are in the pocket, but we are now at 21 (for the year) at end-August and if we keep up that rhythm of six to seven aircraft a month over the next four months, then we shouldn't be too, too far off."
Bregier paid tribute to Airbus staff who had responded to calls to stagger vacations and work extra hours over the summer.
"That seems to be bearing fruit, at least for the A350. This was one of the important issues of the summer," he said.
For total deliveries, Airbus is expected to remain behind U.S. rival Boeing <BA.N>, which targets 740 to 745 deliveries this year.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Bate Felix and Susan Thomas)