Flight International reports that first flight has now been moved from late 2004 into early 2005. However Airbus insists that the program remains on schedule and that first delivery to SQ is still on target for March 2006.
Final assembly of the first A380 is due to start in early 2004. First metal cut for the wing/fuselage center section was in the first half of this year.
Interestingly the same article reports that Airbus is now looking into airframe and engine modifications to optimise the A380 for the Japanese domestic market. To date, Airbus has always said that they were not really interested in getting more than 555 pax certified [due to 90s exit requirements]. Apparently they feel that they can do the 90s with more than 555 pax, otherwise it would not make any sense to pursue the Japanese domestic market.
Airbus is looking for 40 min turn-around-time [!!] on these domestic monsters. 40 minutes for 600-700 pax...WoW. Airbus sees a total demand for almost 100 airframes in the Japanese market [domestic/long haul].
Rolls-Royce is also firm on track with the Trent 900. Several vital test [including fan containment test] have already been completed. The first pre-production Trent 900 test-run is anticipated for 17 Mar 2003 and certification is scheduled for Oct 2004, well in advance of the now slipped first flight.
Airbus just published its latest  Global Market Forecast. It sees a market for 1138 airframes in the 500+ pax market over the next twenty years. The previous forecast  showed 1235 airframes.
Boeing, reversely, sees only 330 airframes in the 500+ market over the next twenty years. However with the A380 now firm on track, Boeing is still/again looking for future 744 developments, and has approached potential customers with a 747-800 [!?] proposal. Which is basically a beefed up 744XQLR with additional fuel [1000 USgal, 3790 liter] in tail sections. To counter balance the additional fuel, a four-frame [6,5 ft - 2m] stretch forward of the wing is anticipated. This would create an additional 20-40 seats [both main deck and upper deck will be stretched]. If the extra payload is not used, range will increase to 8000nm [14800 km].
It seems a little strange to me that Boeing will spend a lot of bucks on developing the -800 while they don't see a significant market for 500+ seat aircraft. However I do feel that a medium stretch is the way to go on the 744. The current aircraft is too close for comfort to the 773[ER] and 346[ER?], which do the same task, with a little less payload, but with better economics. A stretched 744 would certainly increase economics [per seat mile] and have a better payload advantage compared to the 773/346.
Immigration officer: "What's the purpose of your visit to the USA?" Spotter: "Shooting airliners with my Canon!"