BA to use Manston for A380 training

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British Airways is likely to station its first Airbus A380 at London Manston for initial circuit training after the jet is delivered in July.

The Kent airport will host the A380 once initial ground tests have been conducted at London Heathrow, as BA intensifies pilot conversion to the type.

BA intends to have some 90 pilots trained on the aircraft by the end on this year, by which time it expects to have three in service.

The initial A380 will carry out some domestic UK flights and intra-European services normally performed by A320s, says BA simulator engineering manager James Glover.

Manston has little traffic but its facilities include a 2,748m (9,015ft) runway. Glover says it will probably spend a "few days" at Manston for pilot training, and indicates that a UK tour is planned with the jet.

BA has already sited an A380 and Boeing 787 simulator at its Heathrow engineering base, and is to start transferring other simulators to the same centre - which is undergoing refurbishment - from its Cranebank facility next April.

Fourteen additional simulators, covering various aircraft types, will be moved to the centre by the end of 2014, giving it 16 in total. Some older types will be retained for third-party training work.

BA is still awaiting confirmation of 787 delivery dates, following European approval of a modification to fix battery problems with the type.

It had originally intended to space the introduction of the 787 and A380 further apart but the delays to the 787 programme have resulted in the two types being brought in almost simultaneously.

Glover says BA still wants to keep a buffer of about a month between the two types.

While Boeing has promoted the commonality between the 787 and 777, BA is yet to decide whether it will operate a joint fleet. It will initially run the 787s as a "dedicated" operation, says Glover, pending a review of the benefits over the first 18 months of operations.

"They'll be separate fleets to start with," he says. The 787-8 operation will enable BA to gather enough experience and information ahead of the arrival of its 787-9s.