Airbus confident ahead of A380 service entry with Singapore Airlines

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Airbus is confident that everything is in place for a smooth entry-into-service of the A380 with Singapore Airlines on daily flights between Singapore and Sydney this month.

Airbus has generated an unprecedented number of flying hours for an aircraft ahead of service entry. The 10 A380s that have flown to date - including five development aircraft - have accumulated over 4,400h in the air and almost 3,400 take-offs.

These are higher than the figures originally expected to be achieved at this stage of the programme as Airbus has used the extended time since December's certification that resulted from the production delay for "maturity validation" and wake vortex separation testing, says A380 programme chief Mario Heinen.

Airbus has operated the A380s on specific "maturity weeks" with aircraft flown as per airline procedures with follow-up of identity cards regarding technical issues and their fixes in conjunction with customers.

SIA will only take one of the 471-seaters this year, and Airbus will station around 30 people in Singapore to support the airline during the early operations. While the SIA A380 will have a relatively leisurely 6h on the ground in Singapore between each flight, the transit in Sydney will be just 1h 40min. Heinen is confident this will be handled comfortably, as the A380's 1h 30min turnaround target was validated during the route-proving and long-haul campaigns.

During July and August Airbus conducted specific system flight tests and a full cabin check on the first SIA. "We've upgraded systems to entry-into-service standard," says Heinen, and the formal acceptance process began in the last week in September.

On the production side, Airbus has now assembled 23 A380s including the five development aircraft (but excluding the ground test airframes). Three SIA A380s are in Hamburg undergoing cabin furnishing, along with the first Emirates aircraft.

The first Qantas A380 (MSN014) is undergoing the finalising of its wiring installation in Toulouse as it approaches the "power-on" stage, and should be ferried to Hamburg for furnishing before year-end.

The first A380 to be equipped with the redesigned electrical system will be MSN026, and Heinen says that the design is now frozen and the installation is due to begin "in the coming weeks". This aircraft should be ready for power-on early in 2008.

Thirteen A380s will be delivered in 2008, 25 in 2009 and 45 a year from 2010. Output is accelerating towards two aircraft a month, and Heinen says that Airbus is working with suppliers after they slowed or halted manufacturing to "bring them back to speed". Factories will reach four aircraft a month level during 2009 ahead of final assembly reaching four a month in 2010.

Airbus has completed another round of wake vortex trials using the A380 and other widebodies. Heinen says the data has been "compounded" and handed to the International Civil Aviation Organization for analysis. "Our expectation is we will see further relaxation in the recommended separ-ation distances by year-end."