A freighter version of the Airbus A380 remains on the backburner, as the European manufacturer continues to play catch-up with delivering the passenger version to customers who have been “suffering” for want of the ultra-large aircraft.

The A380 cargo version “is part of the plan but right now [we’ve] put it back out into the future”, said Airbus chief operating officer, customers John Leahy today during the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in Orlando, Florida.

He notes that there “isn’t a specific date yet” for bringing the A380 freighter to market.

The cargo variant was part of the original A380 family that was launched into production in December 2000. But Airbus interrupted the development programme to throw its weight behind sorting out the passenger version. Major US customers FedEx and UPS cancelled their orders.

Production of the passenger model is projected to reach four aircraft per month – for a total of about 50 aircraft per year – in 2010.

Airbus will then be able to “look at the next step of the program”, the A380 freighter. It is too “premature” to say when that will occur, he adds.

Meanwhile, design of the manufacturer’s answer to the Boeing 787, the A350 XWB, “is frozen” in terms of the fact that Airbus has “legally binding contracts” with performance guarantees that must be met.

The A350 XWB will use carbon fibre wings and the majority of the aircraft’s fuselage will also comprise carbon fibre reinforced plastic, including the panels, doublers, stringers and typical frames.

The airframer continues to look at the manufacturing process. Talks with Spirit Aerosystems “and others” continue, Leahy says.

Source: flightglobal.com's Air Transport Intelligence news

Source: FlightGlobal.com