AIRBUS and Boeing yesterday hailed signs of a pick-up in the battered aerospace industry and predicted that the Middle East would lead the fight-back.<br /><br />Airbus said figures last month showed falls in passenger numbers had bottomed out and that talks with airlines at this week’s Dubai air show suggested evidence of recovery.<br /><br />While western airlines have been cutting back, Middle East carriers -- especially in the Gulf Arab region -- have expanded fleets and routes.<br /><br />“We are getting encouraging signs from customers on the numbers they have for forward bookings and that growth is picking up again,” Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said.<br /><br />Boeing expects airlines to return to profit in 2011, underpinned by recovering global economic growth and passenger traffic next year.<br /><br />“Demand globally remains strong,” Boeing said.<br /><br />Yesterday, Airbus parent EADS unveiled a 77 per cent fall in third quarter pre-tax earnings before interest to €201m (£179m) from €860m beforehand on a slight rise in revenue to €29.7bn. Orders at 30 September were worth €378bn, down six per cent from €400bn in December 2008.<br /><br />Demand for new jets has taken a hit as lower travel spending, falling global trade and rising oil prices have crippled airlines. <br /><br />To cut costs, many airlines have grounded planes and axed or deferred aircraft orders.<br /><br />Enders said markets remained tough and Airbus was still having production problems on its flagship A380 super-jumbo jet and its delayed A400M military transport aircraft. <br /><br />Airbus hopes to fly the A400M for the first time by the end of this year, while Boeing also expects its delayed flagship 787 Dreamliner to make its maiden flight this year.<br /><br />“There is no secret about it. Production is not where we want to it to be,” Enders said when asked about Airbus targets for A380 deliveries in 2009 and 2010.<br /><br />He also reiterated concern about the weak dollar and said Airbus would try to find more cost cuts on top of those already targeted in its Power 8 restructuring programme.