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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
quote:
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.


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