Super-jumbo problems: Airbus details A380 delay

15th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, June 15, 2006 (AFP) - The problems that have thrown the Airbus A380 superjumbo airliner into dramatic production delays and slashed the value of Airbus spark from the complexity of electrical systems specific to each customer, the company says.

TOULOUSE, France, June 15, 2006 (AFP) - The problems that have thrown the Airbus A380 superjumbo airliner into dramatic production delays and slashed the value of Airbus spark from the complexity of electrical systems specific to each customer, the company says.

The weak point in the production line is called work station 30. It is here that the framework of the aircraft is fitted out and electronic and electrical systems are wired up.

In announcing 12 months ago an initial delay of six months in delivery of the first airliners, Airbus referred to difficulties in supplying cabling adapted to the needs of each customer airline.

At the time Airbus played down the impact of this, but in the statement late on Tuesday about a further and deep production delay, associated with a profit warning, the company repeated that the problems arose mainly from bottle necks in the specification, manufacture and installation of electrical systems.

The other production point for the giant airliner is work station 40, where the six main structural components such as wings and fuselage are put together after being transported from production sites around Europe.

Convoys of trucks bringing these parts from the airport at Bordeaux in southwest France to Toulouse, where Airbus is based, were running at the rate of two per month at the beginning of the year, but there has been almost no traffic for two months.

A source close to authorities responsible for road traffic said on Monday that the last three convoys due to have travelled since April had been postponed, and inside the company a source who declined to be named said that "the convoys will not roll again until September".

Last week Airbus had said merely that a few deliveries had been delayed recently.

The latest announcement of delays, cutting the number of aircraft to be delivered in 2007 from 20-25 to nine, has hit Airbus shares hard, less because of the nature of the problem and more because of the scale of the delays and the suddenness of the announcement.

The British company BAE Systems, which owns 20 percent of Airbus, said on Wednesday that it had learnt of the delay only on Tuesday afternoon.

And on Thursday the co-chairman of the parent group EADS, Arnaud Lagardère, said that he had not been aware of the delays, telling the Le Monde newspaper that the whole affair was a "major crisis". He said: "The board of EADS learnt of these problems very recently."

The source in the company said: "Seven of the airliners are under way in the assembly factory. The work is taking longer than had been expected. There is no point in adding to the bottleneck since part of the difficulty arises from parts in which cables have been laid before we receive them."

At the beginning of this year, Airbus tried to overcome the problems by bringing in extra teams from factories in Germany, Britain and Spain.

But an official for the CGT union at Airbus, Xavier Petrachi, commenting on Saturday on the discovery of broken cables in an aircraft, said that some of the people brought in as reinforcements sometimes "walked on" the cables.

Another company source, who declined to be named, said that the problem with the cabling "is not a problem of the quality of the products but of the interface between production and the design office, and now we are going to ask each factory to take the time needed to provide parts that are completely ready".

Airbus stresses that it is holding to the target of obtaining airworthiness certificates and of delivering the first A380 at the end of the year. It also notes that the first airliner, for delivery to Singapore Airlines, had left the production line here three weeks ago and was being fitted with furnishings in Hamburg, Germany.

However, as the Airbus statement said, it will now take four months, instead of two as hoped, to build each airliner this year and that the backlog of deliveries is unlikely to be made good until 2010.

This as much as anything appears to be a factor in the crash of EADS shares.

A key competence of the Airbus group is the management of huge, complex and high-technology projects. The co-chief executive of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, Noël Forgeard, in apologising profusely to shareholders, noted late on Wednesday that in his former post as head of Airbus "we never missed a forecast that we had given".

At Goldman Sachs brokers, analyst Sash Tulsa, commenting on market sentiment on the debacle said: "This is in our view very damaging both to the credibility of EADS management and also to Airbus' reputation for programme management."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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