Picture: First Engine Alliance GP7200-powered Airbus A380 expected to start flight tests next month

Toulouse
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The Engine Alliance GP7200-powered Airbus A380 flight test aircraft (manufacturer’s serial number 009) – pictured below at the Airbus plant in Toulouse last week - is expected to take to the air next month.

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Courtesy Mike Martin 


The aircraft (F-WWSF), which was rolled out of the production plant earlier this month, is being prepared for handover to Airbus’s flight-test department. The GP7200-powered aircraft was due to begin flight-testing by May, but Airbus says it now expects the aircraft to fly in July.

Emirates, which is the launch customer for the GP7200-powered A380, is due to receive its first aircraft in October next year - around six months later than scheduled following the latest programme delay that was announced last week. Emirates plans to put the giant into service in January 2008, once it has completed crew training and route familiarisation.

Meanwhile, two other launch customers, US lessor International Lease Finance (ILFC) and Malaysia Airlines (MAS), have expressed doubt over the continuation of their orders after the revision of delivery schedules caused by the production problems. 

ILFC is reportedly considering a cancellation of some or all of its A380 orders, due to the delay.

ILFC has orders for ten aircraft, but chairman and chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy is quoted by financial newswire Bloomberg as saying: “We could cancel and are considering cancelling all or some of our A380 order. We are not happy and on safe ground to cancel the order.”

He said the contracts allow the company to scrap the deal without penalty after a six-month delay.

Similarly, a union representing thousands of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) employees is calling on the cash-strapped carrier to cancel its Airbus A380 order.

Airbus told MAS last year that delays in the programme would push this back to July 2007, which will now be compounded by the latest delays to early 2008. It is widely believed there is ongoing debate within MAS and parent company, Penerbangan Malaysia (PMB) about whether the order for six Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380s should be cancelled.