Airbus working flat-out to address A380 reliability issues

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Airbus is working flat-out to resolve A380 technical issues in the wake of a brief grounding of the Qantas fleet and concerns by Emirates about declining reliability.

There are 13 A380s in service with three airlines: four with Emirates, three with Qantas and six with Singapore Airlines. Qantas suffered the most recent high-profile problems earlier this week, when technical issues grounded all three of its A380s briefly.

The airline says two A380s were declared "unserviceable with a fuel tank indication system problem", while the third "experienced a nose-wheel ground steering issue and an unrelated fuel leak issue".

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark adds: "We've a number of unrelated issues that have brought down despatch reliability." But he points out that the airframer has "gone overboard to sort things out".

Airbus's head of A380 product marketing Richard Carcaillet declines to reveal the A380 fleet's current technical dispatch reliability, as the figure is "not meaningful yet" due to the small operating fleet.

"It is not significantly bad, but it is not where we want it to be," he says. "This is not a crisis. We have a number of small issues for which we have developed fixes, some of which have already been retrofitted."

One of the reliability issues has been a fuel pump problem that has required a modification, but Carcaillet says this was not related to the Qantas grounding.

In response to concerns about declining reliability, the airframer recently gave customers "a reaffirmation that 'we are on the case' and that fixing these problems is our top priority from senior management down", says Carcaillet.

Clark confirms that Airbus chief executive Tom Enders "has made it a top priority in the organisation and follows the reliability on a daily basis".

While Airbus has reduced the support provided to customers compared with the 'enhanced' level offered for the early months of operation, it continues to provide significant assistance, says Clark.

"Support teams have been with us since August 2008, Airbus has placed a substantial inventory of line spares at New York, London, Sydney and Auckland at its expense," he says.

The 13-strong A380 fleet has to date accumulated 31,500h and 3,000 cycles in revenue service since the October 2007 debut with SIA.