Airbus expects up to three-month delay in A380 production

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Airbus is estimating that ramp-up snags with the A380 will postpone deliveries by two-and-a-half to three months, which the airframer is attributing to delays in adapting to new serial production techniques.

It follows the disclosure today that Airbus will deliver 12, rather than 13, A380s this year and 21 instead of 25 in 2009.

Airbus has not given a precise forecast on the number of A380s it expects to deliver in 2010. It had originally intended to deliver 45 under the adjusted schedule adopted in 2006, but chief executive Tom Enders says only that he is “confident” of producing 30-40.

 

The amended timetable comes as the airframer prepares to stop producing low-rate initial ‘Wave 1’ aircraft and switch to a full serial design and manufacturing process for ‘Wave 2’ aircraft.

Enders admits that the original ramp-up plan “is not achievable” but stresses: “We are not talking about a catastrophic scenario.”

He adds that the company needs to discuss the “important and sensitive” matter with airline customers before estimating the financial impact.

“We had to face up to reality,” he says. “We could not go for the full rate increase we’d scheduled originally.”

Airbus executive vice-president of programmes Tom Williams explains that the work on the first ‘Wave 2’ aircraft, serial number MSN026, has taken around three-and-a-half months longer than anticipated.

He attributes this to the “learning-curve effect” and the need to mobilise a team of 600 personnel – of whom 400 have been sourced externally – to handle the new digital mock-up and design techniques being employed on the aircraft.

Williams says the company is “reluctant to bring in more people”, because it feels there is a “natural limit” to the number of staff it could reasonably put in place while maintaining an appropriate level of control and quality.

He states, however, that the airframer intends to end ‘Wave 1’ production by the end of this year and expects to begin assembly of 26 aircraft next year.

Williams estimates that the production schedule will be shifted by two-and-a-half to three months. He insists that this is not a “wild guess” and that Airbus, having gained experience in building the A380, has “good evidence” that its forecast is accurate.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy is confident that there will be “no cancellations” as a result of the delays.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news


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