Airbus A350 Faces New Delay

 - July 27, 2012, 10:41 AM
The first section of the first flyable Airbus A350XWB arrives in Toulouse on July 16. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus will delay first flight and entry into service of the A350XWB by another three months to address a manufacturing glitch at its Broughton, UK, wing production facility, EADS executives revealed during today’s half-year earnings briefing. Already a year behind schedule, the A350-900 now won’t reach the market until at least the second half of 2014.

Earlier this month AIN reported that development of the Airbus A350XWB could lag by another month amid questions about problems with a machine in Broughton used to drill holes in the airplane’s composite wings. Airbus expects the wing drilling problem—involving software used to control the robot that creates the holes for attaching composite wing panels to the underlying structure—to delay first wing delivery from Broughton to Toulouse from September to October, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said at this month’s Farnborough International airshow. At the time he stopped short of announcing another delay to first flight, however. “It’s too early to say because the assembly process is going very, very well—better than expected,” said Bregier.

“We have had some issues and we will continue to have issues until we deliver the aircraft to the customer,” added Bregier. “Yes, [the 787 and A380] programs were delayed by about three years and I can confirm that we have no intention to repeat these mistakes. The biggest lesson we can draw from the past is that we need to move from one step to the other of these big programs without rushing.”

To ensure sufficient systems “maturity,” Airbus plans to conduct what Bregier called a virtual first flight, conducted on the ground with passengers and crew, before the end of this year. 

The latest delay forced EADS to book a €124 million ($151 million) charge on its most recent earnings statement. However, the company reported that revenues increased by 14 percent, to €24.9 billion ($30.4 billion), a jump in earnings before income and taxes (EBIT) of 89 percent, to €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion), and a rise in net income to €594 million ($725 million).

“The Group performed well in the first six months and our financial results demonstrate steady momentum,” said EADS chief executive Tom Enders. “The new management is united in pursuing improved profitability through a clear focus on program execution…Our key programs, particularly at Airbus, continue to command our utmost attention. On the A350 especially, maturity of sections delivered to the final assembly is of key importance to us as we prepare for a robust production ramp-up.”