Senior Airbus officials are expressing optimism that they can now deliver on the new schedule for the A380 aircraft, while still conceding that there are challenges ahead.
The plan is to build 13 aircraft in 2008, 25 in 2009 and to be at a steady rate of four per month by the end of 2009.
The first 25 aircraft will involve substantial amounts of ‘hand-built’ processes and it is only by the end of 2009, says chief commercial officer John Leahy, that the cycle will be truly industrialised.
He says the lengthy delays suffered so far have had one benefit, noting: “The delays have been a two-edged sword. We have used the extra time to make sure the systems were more mature than they otherwise might be.”
Another manager who has worked on operational trials in Singapore says that activity has gone well, giving rise to high hopes of a smooth entry into service.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders, answering questions at today’s delivery of the first A380 to Singapore Airlines (SIA), said: “When we re-baselined the programme a year ago we said we were on a four-year recovery programme.
“Today we are delivering on time, as we said a year ago. There is a challenge ahead of us but we have improved processes and there is every reason to believe that we will make it.”
He says it has been possible to begin moving people onto the A350 and A400M programmes, noting: “We have three important programmes going on. We have already transferred resources from the A380 to the A400M and the A350.
“But it is no secret that this is a tight situation as far as resources are concerned. However, they are at very different stages and so they require very different resources and skills.
“We still have more than 1,000 workers from Germany working in final assembly in Toulouse. We will obviously work to reduce that but for some time to come in the next wave we will see a considerable number of workers here in Toulouse.”
Enders is committed to delivering the intended 13 aircraft next year, but adds: “As important as it is, it is still part of a four-year recovery programme. This programme has the utmost priority at Airbus.”