A380 customers await Airbus verdict on potential delays

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A380 customers are waiting to hear from Airbus about the possible impact on their deliveries as the manufacturer undertakes a production review amid speculation that the programme could slip by up to six months.

The assembly effort is being transitioned from the original batch of aircraft blighted by the production problems two years ago ("Wave 1") to airframes constructed with redesigned wiring harnesses ("Wave 2").

The production recovery plan launched in October 2006 was focused on reducing the level of outstanding work required on sections being delivered to the Toulouse final assembly line from other plants, and its successful implementation is crucial to the ramp-up plan which calls for 13 deliveries this year, 25 next year and then around 45 annually from 2010.

The first Wave 2 aircraft reached the power-on milestone in late April, around four months behind the original schedule. It is due to be delivered to Qantas by the end of the year.

wave 2 a380
 © Airbus

"At this phase of the programme, where we are moving from the 'conventional' way to the full industrialisation, [Airbus chief executive] Tom Enders has requested an in-depth review of the programme as is normal in such a transition phase," says the airframer.

In a letter to airlines informing them of the situation, Airbus reiterates that the production schedule for the A380 "has been challenging and continues to be challenging", noting that it is entering a critical phase. Industry sources expect the review to take around two weeks.

While Airbus says that until the review is completed any talk of further delays is "speculation", industry sources indicate that deliveries could slip by six months. In March, A380 final assembly line chief Jean-Claude Schoepf conceded that the production plan was "still not yet secure".

Four A380s have been delivered to date, all to Singapore Airlines. The airline is due to receive two more this year, while Emirates and Qantas should each receive four. In 2009 Air France, China Southern Airlines and Lufthansa are due to take their first aircraft, with Korean Air scheduled to be the first new A380 operator in 2010.

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