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More delays in store for the superjumbo

Late last month, DailyTech reported that Airbus was delaying its A380 superjumbo airliner due to problems with wiring. On Wednesday, the company announced that it was delaying its entire A380 program by a full year. As a result, the first production A380 will not be delivered until October of 2007.

The news has disappointed many airliners including Singapore Airlines and Qantas. In fact, Airbus has to fork over $22 million USD to India’s KingFisher Airlines because of the delay. Malaysia Airlines, a company that has been in serious financial trouble lately, could cancel its order for six planes altogether or at the very least look for an interim solution. There’s also word that EADS may sell off a 20% stake in Airbus that it aquired from BAE.

Airbus is trying it best with damage control and it is offering some insight into the problem that it is having. The following is from a speech given by Christian Streiff Speech, Airbus President and CEO:

The issue of the electrical harnesses is extremely complex, with 530km of cables, 100,000 wires, and 40,300 connectors. It is twice as complex as for our next largest aircraft, the A340-600! And the depth of the problem was not fully understood in June. The full analysis over these past weeks has revealed it is much worse than expected.

The root cause of the issue is that there were incompatibilities in the development of the concurrent engineering tools to be used for the design of the electrical harnesses installation. Quite simply, while the A380 is the most-advanced and modern plane ever made, the wiring harness installation design package in the forward and rear fuselage could not keep pace with the rest of the aircraft programme. Also, the learning curve for wiring harness changes was too steep during the complex development phase. We have to update and harmonize the 3D- design tools and data base – and it will take time to do this.

On top of all of that, Rolls-Royce announced today that it will halt production of its Trent 900 engine and that it will deliver at most 30 engines to Airbus by the end of 2006. According to contractual obligations, Rolls-Royce will supply 48% of the engines used in the A380 -- the remaining 52% will be supplied by rival General Electric.

At this rate, the A380 will be entering service just ahead of Rolls-Royce-engined Boeing 787 Dreamliner which is due to go into service in 2008.

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Didn't this happen to Boeing a few years ago?
By Kuroyama on 10/6/2006 12:43:59 PM , Rating: 3
How the tables turn. Just a few years ago we were hearing the Boeing had big production problems and Airbus was going to rule the world with their more efficient modular manufacturing (wings in England, body in France, etc). Now Boeing is the wunderkind and Airbus is in the dumps.

I wouldn't mind a little Embraer plane. It's amazing that after a Boeing knocked off the wingtips last week in Brazil at 37000 feet, the plane (and pilot of course) still managed to find an airport in the jungle and land safely. Wonder if this impossible to build Airbus could manage something like that!

RE: Didn't this happen to Boeing a few years ago?
By cgrecu77 on 10/6/2006 12:55:29 PM , Rating: 2
the boeing it collided to didn't do too well though, as it crashed and there were no survivors. It's one thing to control a small aircraft and a whole different one to control a large passenger plane.

By Kuroyama on 10/6/2006 1:08:26 PM , Rating: 2
It's one thing to control a small aircraft and a whole different one to control a large passenger plane.

I suppose that's the key point. I probably shouldn't have added that paragraph, because it was definitely a tragedy. However, a few days I read a story by one of those on the Embraear about the experience and it was just unbelievable that even that (small) plane managed to survive.

By kilkennycat on 10/6/2006 1:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
And should a A380 ever come in physical contact with business jet, guess which plane will make the headlines?? A wipe-out of an A380 and the instant termination of 600+ lives is likely to have as much psychological effect on A380 business as the fatal fireball crash of Concorde at Charles de Gaulle which put the final nail in Concorde's coffin. The A380 is a (Blue)White(and Red) elephant; yet another exercise in national arrogance. A plane mandating very expensive terminal modifications at every airport visited ? The A380 is as marginal a product as its ill-fated predecessor Concorde.

RE: Didn't this happen to Boeing a few years ago?
By Merry on 10/6/2006 2:46:52 PM , Rating: 3
Concorde at Charles de Gaulle which put the final nail in Concorde's coffin. The A380 is a (Blue)White(and Red) elephant; yet another exercise in national arrogance.

I think you'll find it isnt. Its more about reducing seat costs. If this is your argument, what was the 747? And also i'm sick of arguing that Concordes crash didnt finish it off. Expensive modifications were made to it, if it was simply going to be retired these modifications would not have been carried out. I'd say 9/11 contributed to its downfall rather than anything else.

A plane mandating very expensive terminal modifications at every airport visited ? The A380 is as marginal a product as its ill-fated predecessor Concorde.

Its not really marginal. There are many orders and Airports are upgrading facilies, therefore it doesnt seem to be a marginal product, in the way Concorde was. Indeed you cant really compare the two, they were born out of entirely different circimstances.

And as for safety, well, by your logic we should all go round in one seater jets just incase of a crash, come on get real.

By pantherman007 on 10/6/2006 5:39:19 PM , Rating: 4
Actually its more about slot restrictions at congested airports like Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. The theory is that the A380 would use one slot for more passengers than a B744 or A340 - important when an airport is already operating at or near full capacity. Before the wiring problems came to light, though, the A380 already had issues with the wake vortex it left behind it. The initial rulings require planes of all sizes to trail further behind an A380 than they do a 747. Apply this to the takeoff and landing slot controls, and much of the theoretical benefits disappear.

While I've always questioned the A380 from a business and financial perspective, that's a separate topic from the engineering. I do want to fly it, I just don't want my airline to buy any ...

RE: Didn't this happen to Boeing a few years ago?
By Ringold on 10/7/2006 2:43:34 AM , Rating: 2
Holy cow, hadn't thought of it, the vortex must be monstrous with so much lift being required!

Quartering tail wind + A380 = Small planes find alternative airport, or burn extra jet-a waiting for dissipation, or cause one more gray hear to appear upon the head of ATC as they plan and space and plot.

By Ringold on 10/7/2006 3:09:18 AM , Rating: 2
Er, dont know why I said Jet-A when nothing I fly uses it, but I'd imagine some of these VLJ's could get taken on a roller coaster ride just as easily as a 172. Either way, bad news anywhere on final.

By Calin on 10/9/2006 8:53:27 AM , Rating: 2
When Boeing introduced the 747, in many airports were needed important changes in order to be able to accomodate the passengers from such a big plane.
The extensions needed to accomodate a plane with two decks are less important/costly (can you say one-time-only) than the ones needed to allow prompt service to a plane with 600+ passengers.

By hightower204 on 10/6/2006 1:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
The A380 is a management failure, sure. But you forget the rest of Airbus' planes (A320 and A340 family) are selling very well and on time.

By pantherman007 on 10/6/2006 5:29:13 PM , Rating: 2
The 320 remains the best-in-class product for narrowbody aircraft, beating Boeing's 737 line. The A340 is *NOT* selling well, however - the 777 has been destroying it the last several year.

On orders the two were very close. That perspective ignores that widebody aircraft have a much higher pricetag, profit margin, and are sold to top-tier airlines versus narrowbodies. You really can't bring the A320 (or 737) into a debate over the A380/A340/A350/777/787. Airbus's weakness in the widebody market is more critical to its health than overall sales numbers (including smaller jets) would indicate.

By GoatMonkey on 10/6/2006 11:19:20 AM , Rating: 4
Isn't "Jumbo" enough to imply that it's a big plane? Is there really a need to call it "Super Jumbo"? Same thing goes for most computer products these days. Maybe the next plane will be the "Super Jumbo Extreme Edition".

RE: Name
By bob661 on 10/6/06, Rating: -1
RE: Name
By flyboy84 on 10/6/2006 11:56:15 AM , Rating: 2
This same convention applies to skyscrapers. Some are classified "jumbo" or "super jumbo" based on their relative size and time of construction. For example, the Empire State Building is considered a "super jumbo" skyscraper because it is of a certain height built during a certain time period.

RE: Name
By therealnickdanger on 10/6/2006 12:06:47 PM , Rating: 2
Star Destroyer VS Super Star Destroyer?

RE: Name
By Kuroyama on 10/6/2006 12:39:12 PM , Rating: 2
My favorite is the word "postmodernism". What's coming next, "postfuturism"?

Maybe after the "super jumbo" we'll have the "super big jumbo". And if they add a 7/11 selling "super big gulp" on our "super big jumbo" then we can go "super often" to the restroom during the "super long" flight from New York to Singapore.

RE: Name
By captainspazo on 10/6/2006 1:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
the reason is because the term jumbo is used to descrive the 747 when it was released, so they are calling it super jumbo as a marketing ploy against boeing

RE: Name
By hightower204 on 10/6/2006 1:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
A 'jumbo' in the aviation world is a Boeing 747. A380 is bigger than a 747, hence the name super jumbo.

RE: Name
By odobo on 10/6/2006 2:39:31 PM , Rating: 2
so when you go buy your clothes... do you ask why do we have XXL when we have XL and L already? why cant they just call XXL as L and XL as M and L as S?

hrmm... but then they will have to name the original S to XXS and the original XXS to XXXXS.....


RE: Name
By skeeter123 on 10/6/2006 3:40:50 PM , Rating: 2
Marty: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel: These go to eleven.

RE: Name
By Wwhat on 10/7/2006 10:08:08 AM , Rating: 2
they could have thought up another name not using 'jumbo' could they not, or hired someone with that immense uniue capability.

Airbus screw up
By tuteja1986 on 10/6/2006 10:46:05 AM , Rating: 2
Its all the stupid management fault... they screwed up big time and is going to cost them billions.

RE: Airbus screw up
By TheDoc9 on 10/6/2006 10:59:35 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly that's how I read it. One long management excuss. There will probably a lot of cancels because of this, in fact, this is the kind of thing that could set the company back several years - It causes investors and clients to loose confidence in the company.

Poor AirBus

RE: Airbus screw up
By Totalfixation on 10/6/2006 11:04:21 AM , Rating: 1
Honestly i dont care, better for Boeing, i rather have a US company be on top.

RE: Airbus screw up
By sxr7171 on 10/6/2006 1:11:49 PM , Rating: 2
I think it is a setback for aviation as whole and that is sad. However, I echo your sentiments and I have always been pro-Boeing. So good for Boeing.

RE: Airbus screw up
By doctor sam adams on 10/6/2006 4:00:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, US companies are the ones we can trust!

RE: Airbus screw up
By Ringold on 10/7/2006 3:05:28 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't feel too bad about aviation, sxr7171.

There's so much more interesting things happening rather than some air-penis contest over who can make the biggest target for SAMs.

Boeing pushing fuel efficiency, now thats more interesting, and the next 10 years in smaller planes (VLJ's, turbines and pistons) will see some pretty sweet things happen with glass cockpits (G1000 seems standard fare already for new planes) and there will *have* to be a switch off 100LL sooner or later whether the 70yr old hangar rats want it or not. Either environmental reasons or high 100LL costs will force it. ATC will adopt whats already apparently being field-tested in Alaska, making for more efficiency, and.. well.. just lots of things! None of which Airbus has an impact on that Boeing doesn't take up the slack with.

I actually see Airbus' management failure as a plus for aviation, but indirectly; it's a decent example of the inherent weakness of mixing liberal/social morals with liberal/capitalist business practices (EU essentially bankrolling EADS; for what, nationalism? Some naive idea of creating competition and domestic jobs?). Boeing knows it either succeeds or dies, EADS knows big daddy will save the day no matter what, and hence, on the average, Boeing should always deliver more reliably than Airbus.


RE: Airbus screw up
By NT78stonewobble on 10/9/2006 5:11:10 AM , Rating: 2
I was just wondering how many planes have actually been shot down by a "Surface to Air Missile"?

And does it make up a large margin of the causes for airplane crashes?

I'm guessing no. So why mention it?

Boing might be pushing fuel efficiency. Well its nice to see something american actually care about the environment.

Oh wait, its about the bottomline anyway...

Regarding liberal/social morals and liberal/capitalist morals...

Are you saying that the US government does not have ANY toll barriers what so ever?

And won't you agree that eg. microsofts "monopoly" is just a prime example of a company doing good?

Why punish it then?

Why not go serial, or even just coax?
By Kuroyama on 10/6/2006 1:17:04 PM , Rating: 2
I read somewhere that the wiring problems were due to the complexity of wiring up the fancy new entertainment systems on the 500 some odd seats. Why couldn't they just run a system off a single wire, say borrow the local cable company's digital TV/internet/phone technology and run a single coax cable winding through the aisles, with a signal amplifier every so often.

I'm sure this is a drastic oversimplification of the problem, and of the solution, but I really don't see why wiring up the passenger area of the plane should be that hard. It doesn't need to be highly redundant, or failsafe, but just simple. It's not like a failure in my in-seat TV is going to cause a plane crash.

RE: Why not go serial, or even just coax?
By robber98 on 10/6/2006 1:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
I am no expert but wiring on plane isn't as easy as wiring in your house. At home, we don't care the lenght/thickness of the cable and how it shielded. However, something like electromagnetic wave from the cables is very bad for plane's electronic devices.

By Bluestealth on 10/6/2006 3:05:38 PM , Rating: 2
To tell you the truth, I don't understand why they just don't just run a hybrid fiber/coax network, have a few shielded nodes, would probably make it a lot simpler.
Or even just go for a fully fiber network use some kind of IP/TV and Streaming Audio Solution, seems easier then some wacky wiring harness, and would allow for more extensibility.

By Keeir on 10/6/2006 3:31:34 PM , Rating: 2
I am thinking from reading the articles is not a matter of wiring not being installed...

but a matter of wiring not meeting in the middle. A typically way to install many types of wiring today is to install them on each individual section of the fuselage of the aircraft before the parts are brought together.

Essentially, Airbus was hoping various pre-wired sections of the airplane would arrive at the final assembly plant and just "snap together". Unfortunately, it appears that when they tried to do this, wire bundles did not line up... maybe even wire bundles did not contain connecting wires even. This can be a very serious if they needed to move/remove structure to get the wire bundles to meet...

Just speculation. Not an expert.

By CrazyKenny on 10/7/2006 1:46:38 PM , Rating: 2
Forget either of those. IINM, Lockeed was here recently (at a mid-west university) discussing the implementation of a completely fiber-based network/interconnect system for use in planes.

Here's one step towards that :

By Merry on 10/6/2006 11:36:51 AM , Rating: 3
I still think there will be a market for this plane, regardless of this delay. Even so Airbus still has other products which are more than capable of rivaling, if not beating Boeing.

The competition is good for all, and i guess its good that a company is 'pushing the boudries' so to speak, in a way that hasnt really been done since the 747 and Concorde were built. If you consider that then delays are bound to be inevitable.

RE: Nevermind
By Bluestealth on 10/6/2006 2:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
Well they are pushing the "size" boundary whereas Boeing is trying to push the efficiency boundary. It isn’t as if Boeing didn’t have similar ideas, there was a 747X in the works. The only difference was that Airbus was the only one working on a "Super Jumbo", whereas Boeing just wanted to improve their older plane. I have a feeling most of these planes will end up as a cargo planes anyways, where there will always be a market for the biggest. Yes this plane will beat Boeing at total cargo/seats but at what cost?

RE: Nevermind
By jarman on 10/6/2006 6:42:11 PM , Rating: 2
There may be a market for the A380, but it probably isn't big enough to be profitable for Airbus. Unless I am mistaken, Airbus still hasn't even acquired enough purchase commitments to break even. De Lorean anyone?

By Deaks2 on 10/6/2006 11:04:15 AM , Rating: 2
There’s also word that EADS may sell its 20% stake in Airbus.

This is kind of misrepresentive. EADS currently owns 80% of Airbus, 20% is owned by BAe. The 20% EADS is looking at spinning off is the 20% they're buying from BAe, which announced it was no longer interested in civilian production and was more interested in further participation in the US defence market.

RE: Umm...
By Brandon Hill on 10/6/2006 11:07:18 AM , Rating: 2

Boeing 787 is also made in several places
By kmmatney on 10/6/2006 6:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
Just read uyp on the Boeing 787, and it is being made from parts all over the place, not very different to Airbus in this regard:

"The major structural work is being shared by principal industrial partners in USA, Japan and Europe. Boeing will be responsible for about 33% of the production with the flight deck and fuselage being manufactured at Wichita, the wings and the fuselage fairings at Winnipeg, Canada, the fin at Frederickson, and the moving leading and trailing edges of the wings at Tulsa and at Boeing Australia. Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries will manufacture the centre wing box and install the wells. Kawasaki Heavy Industries is responsible for the manufacture of the mid forward section of the fuselage, the fixed section of the wings and the landing gear well. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will manufacture the wing box. The all-composite nose section is being built by Spirit Aerosystems of Wichita.

A joint venture company, Global Aeronautica, set up by Vought Aircraft Industries and Alenia Aeronautica, is responsible for the manufacture of the mid section and rear section of the fuselage including the tailplane, representing a 26% share of production which will be based at Charleston, South Carolina. The French company Latecoere will supply the passenger doors. Goodrich will provide the nacelles and thrust reverser."

By Mclendo06 on 10/7/2006 12:00:32 PM , Rating: 2
This modular construction has already become the norm. Boeing today is much less an aircraft builder than a systems integrator. A funny anecdote which a Boeing engineer shared with me - they have a problem currently with the 737 fuselages. They are built in Wichita, Kansas, loaded onto rail cars (it's pretty cool to see one) and transported by rail to Washington for assembly. Apparently, however, someone (or several people) who live in Wyoming or Idaho near the rail don't have enough to do, and so they like to shoot at the passing 737 fuselages. Very often these fuselages arrive in Washington with more than a few bullet holes. Of course, these are carefully repaired as is any other damage incurred during transportation. It is funny, though, to think that that 737 you're flying in has taken "battle damage".

With regards to Airbus, this delay is going to sting for sure. The airlines ordering the first batch of A380s is already gettting a discount for being the first orders, but airlines always write into contracts provisions which give them discounts for late delivery of the aircraft. One year means that they are going to get these planes for a song, and government-subsidized Airbus will have to foot a good portion of the bill on very expensive airplane. As for the 787, Boeing is also running a very aggressive schedule. They are supposed to try to get certification flights going within a year or so. Also, there is a lot of new stuff that they are doing since the plane is made entirely out of composites, so they may end up having some kinks to work out as well. Boeing pulled off an agressive schedule with the 777, though, so it is possible that they could do it again.

I get it
By Wwhat on 10/7/2006 10:09:20 AM , Rating: 2
I was wondering why someone would need a plane that size, but now I get it, it's to shuttle asians.

By deuce2 on 10/10/2006 8:27:08 AM , Rating: 2
An interesting cartoon, Does this mean anything positive for Boeing?

By SaintSinner1 on 10/10/2006 12:11:48 PM , Rating: 2
Is it coming with Blueray or HD-DVD ? One more delay and I'm going to buy Boeing !!!

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton
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