Charles Champion, Head of the A380 Programme and recently appointed Airbus Chief Operating Officer as well, sums up progress to date as follows. “We had feared some surprises that did not occur. There have not been any big problems, but many small ones, and there won't be any showstoppers. However, we did misjudge the amount of work involved on the wiring. The scale of individual customer special requirements surprised us. Now we are having to do the wiring with all the cable harnesses for many different customer versions in parallel. Emirates is even getting two variants. It affects not just the wires but also their fastenings, and hence the structure. Because of that, at the beginning we had sections in final assembly without the full system equipment for the cabin.”
To alleviate the wiring bottleneck, Champion has called in outside engineering services and hired several hundred extra staff. He expects to gradually make up the lost ground by employing extra teams in final assembly. Champion adds, “We will also ramp up production more steeply later on.” Although he calls the A380-800 the “top priority” at Airbus, he is not expecting production to normalise until between factory numbers 30 and 40, i.e. not before mid-2007, even though launch customer Singapore Airlines (SIA) is to take delivery of its first aircraft before the end of 2006.
(Champion) admitted Airbus hadn't expected the amount of customisation sought by airlines, which caused delays in production as each fuselage layout uses unique wiring harnesses and hardpoints for mounting cabin items. "We underestimated the volume of customisation," said Champion. "Where we were taken by surprise is the amount of engineering hours required to deliver the technical verification sheets. We were not able to provide design inputs to sub-contractors to do the harnesses." This resulted in fuselage sections being delivered to the final assembly line before cabin interfaces and wiring harnesses had been installed, requiring out-of-sequence rectification work.
So, he knew of the problem in 11/205, and presumably somewhat before. They made steps to rectify the problem, and felt a 6 month slip would allow them to catch up. But now another delay is necessary. I wonder what went wrong: did they not hire the necessary staff to catch up, or is was the 6 month delay too optimisitic all along? One wonders where this all ends: could there be yet another delay for the same reason?