Julian Moxon/TOULOUSE

Airbus has confirmed that the first deliveries of the A340-600 to customers will be delayed by three months following a mix-up over design standards at BAE Systems' Broughton plant.

BAE is responsible for wing manufacture (for all Airbus types). Earlier this year it revealed it was having problems with its suppliers, following Airbus' introduction of the CADDS-5 three-dimensional computer design system. The resulting delay in wing manufacture has fed through to the entire A340-500/600 programme. The first -600 will now fly in early May next year instead of February, and Virgin Atlantic will receive its first aircraft in June 2002 instead of March.

"The airlines have been kept fully aware of what is happening," says A330/A340 product manager Alan Pardoe. "We have carried out an internal review of the solidity of the recovery programme and have told them we're totally confident of the new dates." He adds that "no sales have been lost" as a result of the delays.

Airbus has developed a "wing recovery programme" which reduces work at Broughton and increases the amount of overlap between Bremen, where the wings are equipped, and Toulouse, where they are mated to the fuselage.

"We will recover back to the contractual dates [for the -600] by the last quarter of 2002," says Pardoe. Of the 21 delivery commitments originally set for 2002, only 16, all of which are -600s, will now be met, the last three of which will be delivered on time. The remaining five aircraft, all -500s, will now be delivered in early 2003.

Meanwhile, the fourth Trent 500 engine has been fitted to the first A340-600 at Toulouse following the aircraft's push-back from the assembly hall on 20 September. Airbus says that flight testing of the engine on the left inboard pylon of the A340-300 testbed aircraft showed the overall behaviour of engine and nacelle was "much better than for other powerplants at the same stage".

Pardoe reveals that Airbus expects to provide a 4t increase on maximum take-off weight on the -600 beyond the guaranteed 365t at entry into service (EIS). Engineering go-ahead for the increase has yet to be given, but he says: "We have looked over the hill beyond EIS and we believe on past precedent that the structure will be capable of it".

Source: Flight International