NEW aircraft tend to be delivered later than called for by the contracts to buy them; case-hardened airlines play safe by building-in a delay factor to their operational plans. But the sudden way in which EADS, the manufacturers of the Airbus A 380 superjumbo, announced significant delays in its delivery this week has caused resentment among airlines which have ordered the plane and a precipitous drop in the price of company's shares. It has also led BAE Systems, the UK company which has a 20 per cent stake in EADS and builds the wings for the plane, to complain that it had not been adequately consulted about the announcement of the delay and had received no revised budget or business plan.
Technical problems with the plane's internal wiring systems, especially for its advanced entertainment features, were cited as the main reason for the delay. But the French chief executive of EADS, Noel Forgeard, who was in charge of the Airbus project for many years, said: “I have spent my entire industrial career on building confidence for shareholders. When I was at Airbus we never missed a projection and this comes as a big blow.” The rebuke was presumably aimed at Gustav Humbert, the relatively new German head of Airbus. In Seattle, Boeing will be watching these devlopments with interest. If the A 380 becomes a problem plane before it even goes into service, Boeing will not hesitate to offer disillusioned airlines an attractive alternative.