Having badly burned its fingers with production delays on the A380 program, Airbus is determined not to fall into the fire again with its next large airliner program, the A350XWB. At a January 14 groundbreaking ceremony for the new widebody’s assembly line in Toulouse, France, Airbus COO Fabrice Brégier insisted that the company will achieve its goal of delivering the first airplane in mid-2013. He acknowledged that it will no doubt face some unforeseen problems along the way but told press that the “mindset” of Airbus employees has changed since the errors on the A380.
In any case, Airbus engineers certainly face a daunting test in bringing all the A350’s much-vaunted new technology into service. “Starting from a clean sheet of paper to develop this design was clearly a challenge,” said A350 program head Didier Evrard, who confirmed that Airbus has now frozen the design of the 314-passenger -900 version. To ensure all goes smoothly, Airbus plans to invest more than $13 billion in such items as a full digital mock-up of an aircraft due for first flight in the first quarter of 2012.
The A350 program has so far drawn firm orders for 478 examples from 29 different customers.