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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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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 :

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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