Airbus faces a race against time to complete the certification programme for the Engine Alliance (EA) GP7200-powered Airbus A380 to ensure the aircraft remains on schedule for deliveries to launch operator Emirates next year.
Installation of the four engines on the GP7200 development A380 (MSN009) in Toulouse began in February and the final unit is being installed. Airbus confirms the aircraft will not fly until mid-2006.
The airframer maintains this date is unchanged from the revised schedule adopted after the A380’s six-month programme slip announced in mid-2005 – the GP7200 version had originally been due to fly in the last quarter of 2005 and enter service about a year later. “Since that programme shift of some 10 months ago, nothing has changed,” says Airbus. “First deliveries to Emirates are in the second quarter of 2007.”
Despite Airbus’s denial of a slip, industry sources say the manufacturer had initially aimed to fly MSN009 before the end of the first quarter of 2006 under the revised schedule, but this has slipped to “late June/early July”. Emirates is expecting to receive its first A380 in April next year, and Airbus and EA say they are confident this schedule will be met, although sources warn “there is not much slack left in the flight test programme”.
The reason for the delay is unclear. EA says it delivered the first set of GP7200s to Airbus last September and there are no technical issues with the engines.
MAX KINGSLEY-JONES / LONDON