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Airbus watching A380 schedule closely after quake

Airbus is confident it will meet its delivery forecast of some 25 A380s this year despite the Japanese earthquake which has further complicated the juggling process aimed at ensuring enough Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines are available.

Turbine parts for the Trent 900 for the A380 - as well as the Trent 700 and other aero engines - are produced at Japanese corporation IHI's Soma plant.

Soma is just 40km north of the Fukushima nuclear power station which has been the scene of emergency containment and repair work since the 11 March quake and tsunami.

IHI shut down the main manufacturing facilities after the earthquake and only began partial operations within the least-damaged buildings on 29 March.

"We are now undertaking repairs on the other buildings and will commence operations at each of them as soon as such work has been completed," it says.

Airbus executive vice-president for programmes Tom Williams, speaking to Flightglobal in Toulouse last week, said there were "certainly concerns" over the ability of the plant to restore normal operations.

"That's the one we're going to have to watch carefully," he says, pointing out that power has been intermittent and that a smooth operation depends on making sure the "right people are there at the right time".

A380 line
 © Airbus

Airbus has been forced to rejig the schedule of its A380 deliveries after a Trent 900 in-flight failure, on a Qantas aircraft last year, resulted in demand for replacement powerplants.

In order to meet the demand Airbus has been removing Trent 900s from the production line, and pushing A380 deliveries towards the second half of this year.

But Williams says Rolls-Royce has been working on contingency plans and the airframer is maintaining "at the moment" that its A380 delivery total will be in the "mid-20s" for 2011.

Airbus delivered four A380s over the first quarter of this year: two to Qantas in January, bringing its total to nine, and two to Lufthansa in March giving the German carrier six. Both airlines' A380s have Trent 900 engines.

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