Flight International online news 12:30 GMT :  Airbus is to establish a new engineering centre in India within the next year and a half in its bid to meet its ongoing development demand in the face of a current shortage of aeronautical engineers within Europe.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris to mark the A350 formal launch, Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert said the European aircraft manufacturer planned to recruit another 1,200 experienced developers in the next 18 months alone to assist in the design of its new twin-jet.

The €4.35 billion ($5.2 billion) A350 programme last week finally received launch approval from Airbus shareholders EADS and BAE Systems although its owners opted to delay the receipt of any government funding until 2007 as part of efforts to avoid the ongoing trade dispute with the USA.

Airbus has now secured 140 order commitments since the commercial launch of the twin-jet in December last year and it predicts total sales of 200-210 by the end of the year.

Humbert says current engineering recruitment efforts will soon be stepped up for the A350 as recent bottlenecks on the A380 have demonstrated how easily a shortage of engineers can hamper delivery schedules.

He says: “We will increase our engineering centres in the US, Moscow and China and probably establish one in India within 12 to 18 months. We [will also] have a lot of engineers running free out of the A380 programme which will be passing through its certification stages.”

Today, around 160 Airbus design engineers are based in its Wichita design centre which was established in 2002, and another 120 are based at the ECAR engineering centre in Moscow. In April this year Airbus agreed to set up a joint-venture engineering centre in Beijing to recruit 200 engineers by 2008.

Humbert says that in addition to establishing a greater foreign engineering resource, the role that the aeronautical industries within those countries could play in the development costs of the A350 in terms of a risk-sharing role will be also be greater.

Total foreign participation in the A350 - where partner companies assume complete responsibility for a part of a programme, from design to manufacturing, including the corresponding investment and profit sharing - could amount to 40% of the development cost.

“At 40%, the risk-sharing partnerships on the A350 will represent a much greater share than on the A380 and will be very much concentrated on the airframe,” says Humbert.

He says the Russian aviation industry has already been invited to contribute up to 3% of the programme costs while China’s contribution could reach 5%.

Airbus EVP programmes, Tom Williams, tells ATI that the engineering head count on the A350 will number 500 at the end of 2006 and will peak in 2008 at 4,000 engineers. The design office in Wichita in Kansas will also increase by another 50%.

“The relationship Airbus has in China and Russia is a win-win situation as we would like to have more engineering resource while wanting to become a more global company at the same time.”

“In terms of our need for high-quality engineering resource we have to work hard to find sufficient talent within Europe,” adds Williams.

Source: Flight International