Things get serious for the A380 this week, as Emirates becomes the second airline to start earning money with the giant. Airbus will begin to face a stern test of its support network after the gentle, but very successful introduction with SIA nine months ago.

When SIA introduced its 471-seater last October, Airbus knew it could not afford a repeat of the less-than-happy experience suffered by early A340-500/600 operators as it prepared for the highest profile airliner service start ever after one of the longest flight-test programmes in history.

The manufacturer's enhanced support effort, combined with a slow and steady ramp-up of SIA's A380 fleet and network, has ensured that it has been smiles all round, so far. But the dynamics begin to change this week as Airbus and supplier teams now have to juggle a second operator and base, another engine type, and new destinations. Emirates is ramping up fairly quickly to five aircraft and a third operator - Qantas - will join the throng by October. So the airframer cannot afford to relax its effort, as the world is not ready yet to avert its gaze.

But even more critical for Airbus is success in the long, hard battle it has been fighting to standardise the A380 production across its Toulouse and Hamburg plants. At Farnborough, Airbus executives again warned that "big challenges" lay ahead to ramp production up from the 12 deliveries due this year to more than 40 within three years. While customers have shown increasing patience to bear with Airbus as it has lurched from crisis to crisis, the sight of more logos on A380 tails in their home ports is only going to whet their appetites - and build frustration - as they wait to get their hands on their own machines. So, no pressure then...

Emirates' A380 launch will test the support network

Source: Flight International