Airbus Hands Over First Superjumbo Jet
After a delay of almost two years, Singapore Airlines has taken possession of the first Airbus A380 in the French city of Toulouse. The new aircraft is scheduled to take off for Singapore on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
Dogged by a series of production problems which have played havoc with its reputation, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Singapore Airlines is now the proud owner of the world's very first superjumbo jet, an event which Airbus head Thomas Enders has already described as a "milestone."
"We can be very proud of this day," Enders said, adding that the next major challenge would be to get serial production up and running. Thus far the company has taken orders for some 180 of the new aircraft, but Enders conceded that they still have a long way to go before they are turning the planes out in the numbers they would like.
"Only if we manage to accelerate the production process in the next two years, will we be out of the woods with the A380 program," Enders said in an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. He went on to say they were planning to produce 13 planes in the coming year and four per month by the year 2010.
"These are ambitious targets," Enders concluded.
Airbus will need considerably more orders on its books if it is to make the project profitable. The long delays in completing this first model, due in large part to a foul-up over hundreds of kilometers of wiring, caused the European plane manufacturer billions of euros in lost profits and resulted in a restructuring plan which foresees 10,000 job cuts.
Monday's handover, which was a symbolic moment for the company, took place under the shadow of a further problem: accusations of insider trading. Managers and leading shareholders are suspected of having sold shares in the Airbus parent group EADS before any public announcement was made about the A380's production difficulties. Those implicated in the scandal have denied the accusations, but an investigation is underway.
Singapore Airlines have customized their first aircraft, which is due to make its virgin flight from Singapore to Sydney on Oct. 28, with a roomy 471 seat configuration. Other airlines have different plans for the versatile two-story, 73-meter (240 feet) long cabin with 50 percent more floor space than a regular 747.
Virgin Atlantic, owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, has said he will install double beds and casinos in his planes.
Airbus says its A380, which is expected to be used for long-haul routes, will release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and offer the lowest cost per passenger of any aircraft in operation.