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Airbus reviewing A380 delivery schedule: CEO

European plane maker Airbus is reviewing the delivery schedule of its A380 superjumbo jet, the company’s chief said on Tuesday following media reports that the program might face new delays.

Airbus CEO Thomas Enders did not exclude new delivery delays for the A380 airliner in comments distributed following an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and the German press agency DPA. In an English-language transcript of the interview sent by Airbus to AFP, Enders was asked if a press report of further delays to A380 deliveries was correct. “I cannot answer you this question here and now,” the Airbus CEO said. “I said last week, that we currently run a major review, the result does not exist so far.” Enders acknowledged that “our plan to ramp-up production is definitely quite ambitious.”

The flagship A380 has already suffered three successive slips in schedule that have caused total delays of 18 months. After explaining that Airbus sought to shift production from “handwork/manual work” to a “real industrial process,” Enders said: “We now have to look at this and to see if we indeed manage the production or if this is not the case respectively which counteractive measures we have to take.”

Cooperation between an Airbus site in the northern German port of Hamburg and the southern French city of Toulouse, where final assembly takes place, has run into obstacles, and 2,000 German employees were now working in Toulouse to iron out the problems, he added. A media report had said the double-decker airplane which can carry up to 853 passengers, and which is already in service with Singapore Airlines, could be hit by another delay. A 2008 schedule of 13 deliveries has almost been reached, but the 2009 figure of 25 was impossible, the German weekly Wirtschaftswoche said Monday, quoting an internal Airbus source. The source also called the Airbus medium-term target of four deliveries per month into question.

 Singapore Airlines’s first A380 was delivered 18 months late in October, owing to problems caused by industrial cooperation at the French-German group that centered on wiring assemblies handled in Hamburg. The issues plunged Airbus into an unprecedented crisis and forced the group to come up with a broad restructuring program that includes cutting 10,000 jobs and closing or selling several factories in Europe. The management of Airbus and its parent company EADS has also been overhauled as a result of problems with the A380 and a planned military transporter, the A400M. A total of 193 A380 airliners have been ordered to date by 17 airlines, mainly in the Gulf region, Asia and Europe. But some analysts have called the gigantic aircraft -- which can fit 72 cars on each wing -- a “white elephant”. It currently has a catalogue price of $327.4 million (€210 million). (The Economic Times)