Airbus is facing a battle over the next 10 weeks to complete ground testing and clear the A380 to fly if it is to keep to its plan of launching flight trials before the end of March.

The first of four A380s that will participate in the 13 month flight-test programme made its public debut at a glitzy "reveal" ceremony in Toulouse last week.

With its ceremonial duties completed, MSN001 is now continuing with pre-flight testing as ground vibration trials get under way on the second aircraft (MSN002). According to Airbus A380 executive vice-president Charles Champion, the objective remains to fly MSN001 by the end of March, but he acknowledges that it could slip into April.

Meanwhile, several key A380 customers have played down the issue of the empty weight of the aircraft being higher than predicted. Speaking at the "reveal" ceremony last week, Tim Clark, president of the largest A380 customer, Emirates, said that the empty weight increase was "around 5t, and there are things you can do to fix that by increasing the maximum take-off and zero fuel weights". He added that "it is not an issue...Airbus has dealt with it to our satisfaction".

International Lease Finance president and chief operating officer John Plueger said: "There is a big weight reduction programme going on which is the same as any new aircraft. But Airbus will devote whatever resources are needed." He added that contracted performance guarantees mean that "there is an economic consequence to Airbus which is quite high".


Source: Flight International