Outsourcing allows manufacturer to offload almost a third of development costs

Airbus is close to finalising equipment vendor selection for its $10.7 billion A380 ultra-large airliner programme and says it has takers for most of the risk-sharing work on offer to outside partners.

There are now suppliers for 80% of outsourced equipment, by value, says Airbus executive vice-president A380 programme Charles Champion. Contracts cover flight control, fuel, electrical, hydraulic and environmental systems, cockpit avionics, landing gear, engines, nacelles and evacuation slides. Still out to tender are cargo loading, water/waste, oxygen, ground steering control, inertial navigation, radio, fire detection, cabin lighting, anti-ice systems, cockpit seats and windows, flight recorders and tyres. "We intend to be 99% complete by year-end," says Champion.

So far, 33 risk-sharing partners have been secured for 81% of the work, enabling Airbus to offload around 30% of the programme's cost, says chief executive Noâl Forgeard. Partners include Alenia, CTRM of Malaysia, EADS Socata, EADS Sogerma, Eurocopter, Finavitec, Fokker, Gamesa, GKN, Labinal, Saab, Sabca and Sonaca. Korea Aerospace Industries is expected to sign up for a 1.5% stake and produce aluminium wing panels.

"We are comfortable with partners' and vendors' commitments," says Forgeard. Government refundable loans account for 33% of programme cost, with the rest funded by Airbus partners BAE and EADS Systems. About $2.1 billion of the costs are being covered by risk-sharing partners on the airframe, and $900 million by equipment vendors, says Champion. In a surprise move, Fuji Heavy Industries and Jamco of Japan have taken risk-sharing work. Mitsubishi is involved via Eurocopter. Champion says Asian aerostructures suppliers have won $1 billion of A380 business.

The 555-seat A380 will include a carbonfibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) centre wingbox, rear pressure bulkhead and rear fuselage section aft of the bulkhead. Wing ribs will also be CFRP. The upper fuselage will be part constructed from glassfibre/aluminium composite Glare, and laser beam welding will be used for the lower fuselage.

A380 development peaks later this year when over 5,000 engineers will work on the project, says Champion. Metal for the first A380 part was cut in January in Nantes.

The prototype A380 is due to fly by the end of 2004, and enter service with Singapore Airlines in the spring of 2006.

Source: Flight International