Meanwhile, Airbus studies possible design and engine modifications to appeal to the Japanese domestic market

Airbus has revealed that the first flight for the A380 has been moved into 2005 from the late 2004 schedule it has been targeting since programme launch two years ago.

Speaking at the 2002 World Aviation Congress in Phoenix, Arizona, last week, A380 programme senior vice-president Robert LaFontan said that the aircraft will fly in "early 2005", but the March 2006 delivery target remains firm. Airbus plays down the slip, saying that it has always had a broad "late 2004/early 2005" first flight target, and that the programme remains on schedule. Assembly of the first A380 is due to start in Toulouse in early 2004.

However, according to industry sources, the manufacturer had until recently been projecting a first flight in the fourth quarter of 2004. Although the flight-testing will now not start before January 2005, sources say that the programme has enough margin built in to keep first deliveries to launch customer Singapore Airlines on schedule for March 2006.

Meanwhile, Airbus is studying possible design and engine modifications to optimise the A380-800 for the Japanese domestic market. Although keen to minimise the changes, it is evaluating simplified internal layouts and other possible modifications to help meet the target turnaround time of 40min. Japan Air Lines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways are believed to have an eventual combined requirement for around 90 aircraft, two-thirds of which would be for JAL.

Engine changes being studied for the General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance GP7200 and Rolls-Royce Trent 900 include significant thrust derates to optimise the powerplant for the reduced take-off power demands of the domestic aircraft which will operate at lower weights. "Smart" engine and airframe health monitoring systems may also be adapted to compensate for the shorter cycles of the Japanese market.

Engine Alliance is due to start detailed design of the GP7200 in December with first full engine tests in March 2004. Rolls-Royce successfully completed a fan containment test in October, and is preparing to run fan aerodynamic and noise tests from this month. The first full Trent 900 engine test run is set for 17 March, 2003, with certification due in October 2004.

Source: Flight International