Launch carrier to wit until early next year as Airbus carries out post-certification changes to cabin equipment

Airbus has been forced to delay deliveries of the ultra-long-range A340-500 model to launch customer Air Canada by up to five months, as it plans for last minute, "post-certification changes".

Air Canada says delivery of the two aircraft ordered will slip from the scheduled November/December target to March next year. "We've been notified by Airbus the delivery of the aircraft would be delayed until 2003. This was not initiated by Air Canada, but is production related," says the carrier.

Airbus confirms deliveries to Air Canada have been delayed, but says certification remains on target for October: "Airbus wants to fine-tune changes to the cabin equipment, post-certification and pre-delivery. That process will bring us to an early 2003 delivery."

The manufacturer declines to give details of the new schedule, saying the delivery date will be determined towards year-end. Airbus says the slip will not affect deliveries to other early A340-500 customers such as Emirates, which is due to receive its first aircraft in the second quarter of next year.

Deliveries of the first A340-600s to launch customer Virgin Atlantic have been subject to delays of around a month, as the manufacturer battles to meet an ambitious timetable between certification and hand-over.

Airbus sources say the company has learnt from this experience and is now structuring the -500's delivery plan accordingly, with a built-in buffer zone to cater for pre-delivery modifications.

Air Canada says its large fleet gives it "a certain amount of flexibility" to absorb the delay, and that it is "working with Airbus to minimise disruptions". In late May, it announced deliveries of its three A340-600s had been deferred by 17 months to mid-2004. Airbus sources say the airline had also been seeking to postpone slightly the arrival of its -500s.

Source: Flight International