Emirates is being philosophical about the prospect of further A380 delays after the former programme manager who brought the ultra-large aircraft to market cast doubts on Airbus's ability to achieve the revised production target set for next year.
Jurgen Thomas, the original "A3XX" programme manager, still keeps close ties to the aircraft. He told German newspaper Sueddeutsche that he thought it was unlikely output could be ramped up to two a month next year.
Thomas, who retired from the A380 leadership in 2001, is reported to have reached his grim verdict about next year's production because he believes Airbus is struggling to achieve the target of 12 deliveries this year.
Emirates, which put the first of 58 A380s it has on order into service on 1 August, has had the revised delivery plan for its next 11 aircraft confirmed with Airbus up to March 2010, says president Tim Clark.
However, he concedes that further delays to these and subsequent aircraft are a possibility: "Transition to the 'Wave 2' aircraft has proved a lot harder than Airbus thought. If there's a further slip then we'll have to live with it."
© Max Kingsley-Jones/Flight International
Airbus executive vice-president programmes Tom Williams told Flight International during the Emirates A380 delivery ceremony in Hamburg on 28 July that production was on track for the remaining seven of the 12 A380 deliveries planned for 2008 under the revised plan (see table), and that it still intended to ship 21 aircraft in 2009. However, Williams would not disclose A380 production plans in 2010 and beyond.
According to Thomas, the continuing production bugbear is the integration of the Hamburg-built Section 13 forward fuselage assembly, which has proved to be much more complex than expected.
As reported last week, empty Section 13s are now being joined to nose sections in St Nazaire and then shipped back to Hamburg for equipping under an interim production plan that is due to last until mid-2009.
Thomas also said that the standardised manufacturing plan for the so-called "Wave 2" aircraft, from MSN026 with redesigned wiring based on the new French software plateau, has not worked as smoothly as planned.
Clark says that with Airbus already knowing "85% of what they have to do on the Wave 2 aircraft" he is hopeful that the airframer is getting to grips with the complexities of A380 production.