Order deferral by launch customer Virgin partly blamed on airport readiness doubts

Airbus is expressing concern over Los Angeles International's (LAX) commitment to meeting extended plans to prepare for the A380 in the wake of the recently announced 18-month deferral by launch customer Virgin Atlantic.

Airbus North America chairman Allan McArtor says: "I am confident they'll effectively deal with the challenge but, although the short-term solution is OK, I am a little more concerned with the long term." LAX management, which plays down the concerns, says six existing gates will be modified to take the double-deck aircraft, while the focus of early A380 operations will be the remote terminals at the airport's west end.

McArtor says the long-term plan is to increase the capacity of the airport's main international gateway, the Tom Bradley terminal. "They need to get that done because by 2008/9 they will have several frequencies a day and gate capacity will be essential." He adds: "Virgin had two concerns: one was that the [A380] interior equipment will be available, and two was LAX's readiness. I think they have an acceptable solution from Airbus's view, but it will take continual commitment from the airport and the city council to keep together on this."

McArtor was attending an event at Alcoa Fastening Systems in Torrance, California, marking the growth in employment sparked by the A380 programme. Alcoa president Olivier Jarrault says: "Airbus is pressing us to ramp up to meet higher than expected production demand. We will increase production by 10-15% a year for the next three to four years." The company plans to add 250 new jobs at its sites at Torrance, Carson, Fullerton, City of Industry and Simi Valley.

The company, which is supplying around one million fasteners for the A380, developed several new designs including an extended performance lock bolt made from titanium to connect composite wing panels with aluminium ribs in the wing centre box. The new bolt is also used in the engine pylons and wing-to-centrebody wingbox junction. Other parts of the company, which has already hired 120 additional workers, produce structural elements of the wing, fuselage, centre wingbox, empennage, engine pylons and supports.


Source: Flight International