For suppliers of all kinds, this Paris is a nerve-wracking affair as the competition to get on the Airbus A380 programme hots up. Many are hoping that contracts will go firm and possibly be announced here at the show.

Meanwhile, Airbus is expected to announce new orders. It remains tight-lipped as to whether they include new A380 commitments but expects the total to rise from the present 62 to around 100 by the end of the year.

Some 40% of the programme is being offered to risk-sharing partners. But Flight International reports that Japan's major aerospace companies are likely to rule out any risk-sharing with Airbus in order to safeguard established close ties with Boeing.

Nonetheless, the Japanese heavyweights are keen to win straight subcontracting work. Work packages are being allocated this year, ready for the cutting of first metal at the start of 2002.

"As far as equipment selection is concerned, we will have a worldwide supplier base and we have sent a clear message across the world that we want the best," says A380 programme senior VP Charles Champion. "We don't want suppliers because they are French or American, but because they are the best."

The launch variants of the "jumbo jet for the 21st century" are the A380-800 and the A380-800F. The A380-800 will have 555 seats in three classes and a range of 8,000nm (14,800km). Service entry is scheduled for the first quarter of 2006. The freighter version will carry a 150t (330,000lb) payload and have a range of 5,600nm (10,400km).


Airbus is also studying a number of variants, including increased and reduced-capacity aircraft (the A380-900 and the A380-700) and an increased-range version called the A380-800ER. "These versions will be placed in the market if the market wants them," says Champion.

Airbus has orders for 62 A380s plus options from eight airlines and leasing companies. They include Singapore Airlines, which has ordered ten aircraft with 15 options, and Virgin Atlantic, with orders for six with six options.

"We came from a very strong airline involvement," says Champion. "We had 20 major airlines contribute to the A380 definition. They were major Boeing 747 operators so we have had vast feedback on what is happening in the market."

Powerplant choice on the A380 is the Trent 900 from Rolls-Royce or the GP7200 from the Engine Alliance (GE and Pratt & Whitney).

Source: Flight Daily News