Emirates is the latest A340-500/600 customer to suffer a delivery delay with the arrival of its first ultra- long-range -500 postponed by around four months to September.

The slip has been partly responsible for the Dubai-based airline's decision to delay the launch of US services, which had been scheduled to start in June but will now begin in April next year with Dubai-New York Kennedy flights. The relatively recent decision to introduce non-stop services to Sydney in October using A340-500s has also contributed to the US launch delay, says Emirates.

Delivery of Emirates' A340-500s had been due to start in April. Airbus says the delay stems from its decision to "introduce improvements from the flight-test programme". A340-500 deliveries to launch customer Air Canada will start by May - a slip of at least four months - to allow "fine-tune changes to the cabin equipment", says Airbus. It says it does not expect deliveries to Singapore Airlines, due to be the next -500 operator later this year, will be affected.

All three operators of the larger A340-600 model - Cathay Pacific, South African Airways (SAA) and Virgin Atlantic - have experienced delivery delays, partly due to Airbus setting an ambitious timetable between certification and handover.

SAA's -600s were built against a now cancelled Swissair order and have undergone lengthy post-production specification changes. Its first aircraft was officially handed over on 24 January, about three months later than originally planned. The 339-seaters will initially be operated from Johannesburg to Frankfurt and Hong Kong.

In a separate development, early A340-500/600s will require modifications to their centre main landing gear unit after cracks were found during fatigue tests at manufacturer Messier-Dowty's test centre in Gloucester, UK.

Airbus says the weakness was discovered last year, and a modification to reinforce the unit is being tested. This will be retrofitted as necessary, it adds. Messier-Dowty says only the first 20 A340-500/600s will be affected.

Cathay Pacific, which received its first A340-600 in November, confirms it has been affected by the problem and expects to have its aircraft modified in the next three months.

Iberia has selected the A340-600 over the Boeing 777 to replace its six Boeing 747-200s, and will place an order for nine aircraft and take options on three more. Deliveries will take place between 2004 and 2006.



Source: Flight International