Biggest airline customer wants to find out if Airbus's revised timetable is realistic

Emirates is preparing to send a team of auditors to Airbus's production facilities to try to determine if the manufacturer's new delivery schedules for its heavily delayed A380 programme are realistic.

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark told Flight International: "We really need to see how much credibility there is with regards to the new delivery timings." He adds: "We have a team going there to audit their [production processes] in the middle of next month."

Clark says the team of four or five Emirates employees will be "mainly from the engineering side" of the airline. While acknowledging that they are not experts in airframe manufacturing, he says it is hoped they will be able to determine whether Airbus's new delivery schedules are achievable.

Airbus recently announced another round of extensive delays to the A380 as a result of production-related issues. Although Emirates' first A380 (MSN011) is structurally complete and has sat in the Toulouse assembly hangar since early this year, the Dubai flag carrier is not scheduled to take delivery of its first craft until October 2008 - around two years later than originally planned.

Fast-growing Emirates is by far the biggest customer for the A380. It has 45 on firm order, including two leased examples, representing a third of the entire A380 passenger aircraft orderbook.

"The delays have set us back a lot," says Clark. "By the time our first aircraft is coming in, we should have had 18 of them in service."

Clark also says last week's abrupt resignation of Airbus chief executive Christian Streiff after just a few months in the job was an "unwelcome development", but he hopes it will lead to major changes within the company to help it avoid future problems.

"Hopefully, this is a big wake-up call to them," says Clark, adding that he hopes new chief executive Louis Gallois will be "determined to make it the fighting machine that it was". Clark says Emirates remains committed to its A380 orders as "we still believe in the aeroplane".

Singapore Airlines (SIA), which is to be the first operator of the A380, says it has also been closely monitoring production-related issues at Airbus. "We've had engineers on the ground in Toulouse for a few months now, because the aircraft that are on the line right now are predominantly going to be delivered to us, so we have a good reason to have teams working with Airbus engineers as the project develops," it says.

"We also have a good understanding of the progress of the aircraft toward certification, which gives us a level of satisfaction that the problems are, as they say, production, not technical."

SIA adds: "We don't so much see their role as supervisory or audit, but to identify and resolve issues - particularly customer-related ones - which arise during the production of our aircraft and the certification of the A380."

 A380 Max Kingsley Jones
Singapore Airlines engineers have been monitoring progress at Airbus's Toulouse assembly hangar for months

Source: Flight International