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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stretch Version Of A380 Still Far Off

Emirates has been pressing for the stretch but even its influential chief executive, Tim Clark, concedes there is little appetite for it at Airbus.

Mr Clark estimates a stretch version would give Emirates an extra 120 seats in three classes, taking the total passenger load to about 640.

The aircraft is particularly suited for constrained airports, and with global traffic doubling every 15 years, and every 10 years in growth areas such as Asia, some airports are struggling to cope. The plane originally was designed with a stretch in mind.

"We've always talked about stretching it and eventually that will happen," Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy said this week, noting the manufacturer had a lot on its plate with the A320neo, three variants of the A350 and the A400m. "To stretch the 380 is down the ways a bit but it's still in the plan."


Airbus is repairing A380s that suffered problems with cracks in the wing rib feet, small brackets attaching the skin of the wing to the underlying structure.

Mr Leahy said he believed the industry understood the flaw was a maintenance issue that had been sorted out at the manufacturer's expense.

Changes to the manufacturing process have been certified and Airbus estimates the first plane with a forward fit will be delivered early next year. Mr Leahy said Airbus was undertaking a "nose to tail" repair process to replace the rib feet that takes about two months on each aircraft.

Emirates, the biggest operator of the A380, has two aircraft undergoing repairs with a third going in soon. Mr Clark said there would be four aircraft on the ground at any one time and hoped all 34 planes would be back in operation by November next year.

Mr Leahy said sales of the giant aircraft were "pretty much" as expected, with the manufacturer each year selling as many aircraft as it was building in the 25-30 range.

The Airbus executive also did not see any gains for the company's A350 from the grounding earlier this year of the Boeing 787. The A350 is set to fly soon; it ran its engines this week and Airbus announced a crew for the first flight. But Mr Leahy refused to be pinned down on a date this week.

The manufacturer is pitching the A350 to Virgin Australia, which is also looking at Boeing's 787.

"I think the A350 has been selling very well on its own merits without any regard there to the 787 problems," Mr Leahy said. "After all, it's got more capacity, lower seat-mile costs, more range, a bigger fuselage, so I think the airlines tend to like it for what it is, not as an alternative to a 787."

Asked about the recent announcement by Singapore Airlines that it would become the launch customer for the Boeing 787-10, Mr Leahy said the A350-900 would be the bigger 787's direct competitor.

He likened the reasons for launching it to those behind the 767-400, which also featured a reduced range.

"So basically it never sold very well at all, in fact it was a bit of marketing disaster," he said. "I think you'll see some very similar problems with the 787-10."

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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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