Airbus must feel like it began the world's longest bungee jump when it announced the damaging consequences of the A380 production delays earlier this year.

After two management shake-ups and the launch of a recovery plan, the airframer could have been forgiven for thinking that it was reaching the perigee of its fall and was ready to spring back up. But then came last week's shock news that FedEx Express had consigned its 10-aircraft contract - and almost a decade of planning - to the bin and ordered the Boeing 777F instead.

Since the new delays emerged, there has been talk of A380 customers exercising the cancellation clauses in their contracts. But the fact is that the ultra-large aircraft's size makes it "the only show in town" for carriers seeking a genuine step-up in capacity, so such suggestions were seen more as posturing ahead of compensation negotiations than genuine intent. But then came the FedEx revelation, and there must be some furrowed brows in Toulouse at the moment as negotiations get under way with other customers.

The problem Airbus faces is one of credibility. Customers (even FedEx after its cancellation) are convinced that the A380 will be a superb aircraft. But all have grown tired of the airframer's inability - so far at least - to provide a watertight reschedule that can be trusted.

Like the bungee jumper, the destiny of Airbus may be outside its control, with the distance it has yet to fall probably determined long ago by decisions taken under its previous management. But it must pray that the slack is about to tighten as the ground rushes ever closer.

Source: Flight International