FARNBOROUGH- CEO Fabrice Bregier says component maturity for its 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 86family aircraft, 19 Airbus and 10 A350s.
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 .
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.”
Airbus Chief Operating Officer-Customers John Leahy says the target for the A380 is still 30 additional orders by the end of this year. “We have sold four so far this year [to Transaero], so it gets more difficult and the market is a little bit slow,” he notes.
However, Airbus is talking to several existing customers about repeat orders that could materialize later in the year. In his view, the biggest factor affecting demand is uncertainty about the global economic environment, but issues with wing cracks and discussions about fixes in the first half of the year “have also slowed down sales campaigns.”
Airbus this year also hopes to sell 300 of the current A320 variant, a goal Leahy says is important to keep production of the type at a sufficient level to allow for an easy transition to the A320NEO. The first NEO is scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2015.
Leahy says Airbus needs to resolve the dispute with China over the European emissions trading system by the end of the year if Airbus is to go ahead with its planned production ramp-up for the A330 to 11 per month.