Airbus Spools Up A380 Production

 - October 30, 2009, 6:30 AM

It might seem only months since Airbus launched the mighty A380-800, but the double-deck, quad-aisle superjumbo marked the second anniversary of its first commercial flight on October 25 and will soon have entered service with five airlines on many of the world’s most important routes. Indeed, many industry delegates attending November’s Dubai Air Show will travel from Asia, Australasia, Europe or North America aboard one of Emirates Airline’s five A380s. Airbus will have likely delivered more than 25 examples by year-end and 30 by next March. The prospect of Air France-KLM services beginning on November 20, followed by German flag-carrier Lufthansa’s introduction early next year, should come as heartening developments for the European airframer after the project’s painfully protracted gestation and initial manufacture. Further encouragement could arise if–as seems plausible–next year’s output reaches 21, a total long regarded as typical annual production following ramp-up.

AIN analysis of information collected from a variety of operator and supplier sources suggests that next year’s production schedule covers four A380s for launch operator Singapore Airlines, five for Emirates and three for Australia’s Qantas (the only other current user). Air France-KLM will add three more A380s to the two it expects to receive this year, while Lufthansa takes its first five. [Although Lufthansa recently said it wanted to defer delivery of some of the 15 airplane it has ordered, it remains unclear whether the decision will affect any of next year’s scheduled deliveries–Ed.] Following the A380 debut appearance in South Korea at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (October 20-25), flag carrier Korean Air Lines plans to take its first A380 in late 2010, after which new operators in 2011 will likely include China Southern and Malaysian Airlines. Deliveries to British Airways, Qatar Airways and Thai Airlines in 2012 and Etihad Airways a year later would raise the A380 operator count to 12. In addition, plans call for a flight-test aircraft–the second A380 ever built–to go to a conversion specialist for completion as a corporate aircraft for Saudi Arabian customer Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.