July 12, 2012
FARNBOROUGH-Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier says component maturity for its A350 program is more important to the European airframer than a strict adherence to a final assembly schedule for the first A350 test aircraft.
“We don’t want to rush to final assembly with incomplete wings,” he said during the Airbus wrap-up news conference at the Farnborough air show. “This will not happen with me as Airbus CEO. I have no intention of repeating past mistakes.”
Bregier’s comments follow Airbus’s acknowledgment that A350 wing assembly has slipped about four weeks, leading the company to opt for manual, rather than automatic, drilling on the first set “to be on the safe side.”
That process takes somewhat longer than expected, but A350 Program Head Didier Evrard says that Airbus has built a wing mock-up in its Bremen, Germany, plant to help with the installation process, and that “the most critical phase is probably behind us.”
The wings for the first test aircraft are now expected to arrive at the Toulouse final assembly line in October, about one month later than planned.
Airbus received firm orders for 54 aircraft and memoranda of understanding for 61 aircraft during this week’s air show for a total of 115 commitments. That includes 86 A320 family aircraft, 19 Airbus A330s and 10 A350s.
Boeing surpassed this mark with major orders from the likes of Air Lease Corp. and Kuwait’s Aviation Lease and Finance Co., and today’s 150-strong order from United Airlines.
Bregier says Airbus still will develop the A350-800, the smallest version of the aircraft family, in spite of disinterest from airline customers. “The -800 will be a marginal investment, we would not have developed it alone,” Bregier says. But he concedes that “the market is shifting to bigger aircraft.”
That trend is witnessed on the A330 program, where airlines are moving to the larger -300. And Bregier believes “there will be a bigger market for the A380.”