Allan McArtor, CEO of Airbus North America, sees lithium-ion batteries playing an essential role in the future of aviation.

Airbus North America CEO Allan McArtor actually sympathized with Boeing’s lithium-ion problems when addressing a general assembly meeting of the Atlanta chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce March 13.

He called the grounding of Boeing’s 787 fleet in January “unfortunate” due a battery fire on a newly launched Dreamliner parked in Boston and a smoking battery that led to the emergency landing of another 787 in Japan.

“It’s unfortunate, and I say this sincerely, that Boeing has found itself in this conundrum,” he said in response to the very first question raised following his address, lightly chiding the questioner for touching “the third rail” so quickly.

“We all have become battery experts the last few weeks,” he added, saying that Airbus continues to favor lithium-ion batteries but decided to revert to tried and tested nickel cadmium batteries because of the uncertainly of decisions that regulators around the world might take in view of Boeing’s problems.

“Clearly lithium ion batteries are the wave of the future in the next three or four years,” he said in the LeCraw Auditorium at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business to a mix of chamber members, aerospace executives, researchers and students. “They are half the size, half the weight and have twice the power. There is a real benefit to lithium-ion batteries.”

“This does not cause us any joy,” he added although the malfunctioning batteries have been referred to as a “huge black-eye” for Boeing, Airbus’ main competitor.

“Quite frankly this is a matter of confidence in the industry, confidence in the airlines, passengers and our ability to introduce innovation into aviation. We sincerely hope that this is solved soon.”

Meanwhile, Boeing officials have provided the Federal Aviation Administration their proposed fixes for the airline’s lithium-ion batteries, which are made in Japan by GS Yuasa.

The 50 787s recently delivered to airlines around the world have been grounded since mid-January.