Airbus battles to complete A380 testing by year end to fulfil SIA delivery pledge

Toulouse
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By Max Kingsley-Jones in Toulouse

Slips in schedule leave little margin to achieve target of 2006 delivery to SIA

Airbus has a battle on its hands if it is to complete certification of the A380 in time to deliver the first aircraft to Singapore Airlines (SIA) before the end of the year.

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Although Airbus says that the “six- to seven-month” delay to A380 deliveries announced last week was an “industrial issue” resulting from “production ramp-up problems” and is not linked to any issues with the flight-test programme, certification has slipped and is not expected until the very end of the year.

Although the European Aviation Safety Agency says the certification schedule is unchanged from its point of view and “is to be completed by the end of 2006”, Airbus had been targeting certification in October. This date was established under the previously revised schedule implemented in mid-2005, when the original six-month delay pushed first deliveries to launch operator SIA back from the second quarter to the last quarter of 2006.

But Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy tells Flight International that certification is scheduled for “the end of December”, which leaves no margin for further slips. “We’ll deliver to SIA straight after,” he adds.

A380 DELIVERY CHANGES
Year
Old plan
New plan Difference
2006  
2
1
1
2007
20-25
9
11-16
2008
35
26-30
5-9
2009
45
40
5
Total
102-107 76-80
5
Note: forecast beyond 2007 is “worst-case scenario” and therefore provisional
Source: Airbus
A380 flight-test managers continue to express their satisfaction with the progress of the test programme for the initial Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380. However, the latest details of the flight-test schedule revealed by Airbus last week show that there have been further slips to key elements of the programme.

Airbus had been due to undertake a series of “early long flights” (ELF) from Toulouse by mid-2006 using MSN002 – which is the first to be equipped with a full cabin – carrying Airbus employees as passengers.

However, this test, to gain early feedback for the 300h route-proving effort required for certification using another cabin-equipped A380 (MSN007), has slipped to September, says Airbus senior vice-president flight test Claude Lelaie. “MSN002 is about to start the noise tests as it is the first with production-standard engines. We are then into the [French] holiday period so we’ll do the ELFs in September,” says Lelaie. Route-proving had been set for September, but is not now scheduled to take place until the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the first Engine Alliance GP7200-powered A380 remains on the ground in Toulouse waiting to fly. Flight-testing of this aircraft had been due to start by May, but it will not take to the air until next month, says Lelaie.

sia changi a380 takeoff w445 
 SIA will still be "first to fly" the A380, but the delay means the giant will not enter service until next year

A full breakdown of A380 aircraft currently in production is featured below.


AIRBUS A380 PRODUCTION BREAKDOWN
Manufacturer's serial number (MSN) Status
    Completed aircraft that have flown:
001
In flight test
002 In flight test (cabin and noise trials)
003
First for Singapore Airlines (SIA). In Airbus's Hamburg Finkenwerder facility undergoing cabin installation
004 In flight test
007 For flight test (route-proving). In Hamburg undergoing cabin installation
  Assembled aircraft yet to fly:
005 For SIA. Undergoing acceptance trials outside in Toulouse for flight-test ahead of ferry to Hamburg for cabin installation
006 For SIA. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
008 For SIA. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
009 Stored outside at Toulouse awaiting start of Engine Alliance GP7200 flight-test programme
010 For SIA. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
011 First for Emirates. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
012 For SIA. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
014 First for Qantas. In Toulouse assembly hangar undergoing pre-equipping
Note: Two forward fuselage sections – MSN013 (second for Emirates) and MSN015 (second for Qantas) – and three wing sets have also been delivered to Toulouse and are being worked on ahead of assembly.