Airbus A380 takes off for technical test tour

9th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) - As rain clouds gather over European aircraft maker Airbus, the giant plane at the root of its problems is set to jet off on for a tour of the Asia region next Monday for a final round of technical tests.

TOULOUSE, France, Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) - As rain clouds gather over European aircraft maker Airbus, the giant plane at the root of its problems is set to jet off on for a tour of the Asia region next Monday for a final round of technical tests.

The A380 superjumbo, set to be the biggest passenger plane in the world when it enters service next year, is to make seven stops in Asia in addition to visits to Australia, South Africa and Canada during a 17-day test mission around the globe.

On-board engineers and certified test pilots will put the plane through its paces under simulated commercial conditions, including test landings at key airports, refueling practices and maintenance work.

The latest flights, which are expected to be the last major tests before approval from regulators in December, come at a difficult time for Airbus amid a hailstorm of bad publicity for its star project.

On Tuesday, US mail group FedEx announced it had cancelled an order for 10 cargo versions of the A380 because of delays to deliveries of the aircraft.

Airbus has been forced to push back its timetable for deliveries of the A380 three times because of problems encountered when wiring the cabins, with delays now estimated at about two years.

The FedEx decision marked the first time an A380 client had cancelled its order and served as a victory for arch rival Boeing of the United States, which picked up an order from FedEx for 15 of its 777 freighter planes.

The delays to the A380, added to uncertainty surrounding the Airbus A350 mid-sized jetliner project and the A400M military plane, have led Airbus to announce a deep restructuring plan of job cuts, costs savings from suppliers and greater efficiency in the manufacturing process.

The company has also suffered from abrupt management changes and sluggish sales at a time when Boeing has gone from strength-to-strength on the back of buoyant demand for its 787 Dreamliner jet.

The A380 will leave Airbus headquarters near the southern French city of Toulouse on Monday for its first test flight, heading for Singapore then the South Korean capital Seoul on November 15.

A second test flight will take it to Hong Kong on November 18 then Narita in Japan on November 19, while a third test flight is to encompass airports in China, namely Guangzhou on November 22 then Beijing and Shanghai on November 23.

The final flight from the Toulouse headquarters includes a stopover in Johannesburg in South Africa on November 26, then Sydney in Australia and the western Canadian port of Vancouver on November 29.

The four flights will result in 150 hours of flying under normal conditions and test the plane in some of the biggest airports in the world.

The flight to Singapore on Monday will carry pilots from European and US certification bodies, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration, who will be on board to monitor the aircraft.

Capable of carrying between 555-840 passengers depending on the seating lay-out chosen by the airline, the A380 is forecast to enter service in the second half of 2007 with Singapore Airlines, which has ordered 10 of the planes.

Sixteen airlines have placed a total of 149 firm orders for the plane.

The repeated delays to the A380 led Airbus parent company EADS to report a third-quarter loss of 195 million euros (249 million dollars) on Wednesday, a sharp reversal of its fortunes after a profit of 279 million euros in the same period of last year.

EADS, or the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, acknowledged it had to take "drastic measures" to keep up with Boeing and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin vowed to visit Airbus headquarters next week to "find solutions" to the company's woes.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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