Supply chain is main risk for Airbus A350 programby Press Release on 2012-01-17 22:59:09
HAMBURG, Germany -(Global Logistics Media)- Avoiding hiccups in the supply chain is the main challenge facing Airbus as it moves from the development of its new wide-bodied A350 to the industrial phase of the project, Airbus's second-in-command said Tuesday.
The risks lie mainly with second-tier suppliers who are confronted with a sudden need to manufacture smaller complex composite components, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier told Dow Jones Newswires in a interview.
"We're not experiencing too many problems with larger composite parts from big suppliers, but we--and they--are relying on smaller suppliers who are finding themselves producing more complex parts than they have in the past," he said. Bregier added that the problem is all the more acute because the suppliers receive the technical drawings and specifications of parts all at once, and there is pressure on them to start production as quickly as possible.
To help out some that are struggling, Airbus is providing them with teams of engineers and technicians to provide technical advice to minimize delays that might create bottlenecks in the program.
The first version of the A350 is slated to enter into service with customer airlines in 2014. Airbus already has been obliged to push back the entry into service date by up to six months to ensure that the project is mature before it gets to the industrial stage, unlike the A380 superjumbo program in which errors weren't fixed before they reached the final assembly stage. Final assembly of the A350 is slated to start before the end of this year.
"We learned our lessons from the A380, and from Boeing Co.," which also ran into costly delays with its 787 Dreamliner program, Bregier said.
Airbus's chief salesman, John Leahy, said Tuesday that airlines are clamoring for earlier delivery slots for a later, stretched derivative of the A350 called the A350-1000, but none are available before 2019 or 2020. Airbus has decided to delay that program to allow it to be equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce engines. "There's no way we can accelerate the A350-1000 program because we need to get feedback from flight testing of the smaller A350-900 to fine-tune the design in terms of weight reduction, and to allow time for Rolls-Royce to develop the engine," he said. Airbus has said that it sees the A350-1000 as the plane in its catalog that will kill the Boeing 777.
Airbus disclosed earlier Tuesday that Etihad Airways has canceled firm orders for six A350-1000s