Airbus says its orders could drop by more than 50% in 2009, forcing difficult cutbacks at factories only recently optimized for maximum output. Too many layoffs can cause a brain drain that makes recovery difficult when demand picks up again, and suppliers must be protected from a glut of unsold parts. Both Airbus and rival Boeing Co. are attempting to ease slowly off their record production levels, even as other industries move quickly to right-size in the face of a deep recession.

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