That is a decision not even top managers can impose on the elite corps of pilots and flight test engineers who, with their own lives at stake, have final say over whether to accept delivery of the jet, just as though they were outside customers.
“It is another world. Flight Test do not think about shows. They fly when they are ready,” said an industry executive.
The A380 debut was delayed when crew rejected the double-decker plane until a landing-gear problem had been addressed.
FLIGHT TEST SCRUTINY
Based on past launches, the timing of last week’s unveiling is consistent with a handover to test crews near the end of May and a maiden flight two weeks later, but the schedule is tight.
The A380 was handed to the Flight Test Centre on April 6, 2005 after a two-week handover process and first flew on April 27 - about 35 days from the start of the handover. Eight years on, the A350 left the paint shop on May 12, leaving a total of just 28 days before the start of the air show.
In a book last year, Lelaie described how a year of flight testing on the A380 was complicated by mistrust between pilots and management. Analysts say such tensions have eased, however.
Following delays on civil and military projects worldwide, Airbus slowed development of the A350 to avoid skating over problems that might end up costing more and taking longer to fix. Even so, analysts say intense scrutiny of the A350 will not go away until well after the first jet enters service in 2014.