Emirates Says No Drop In Demand Over A380s

November 24, 2010

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The head of Dubai-based airline Emirates said passengers showed no hesitation in flying on the world's largest airliner after an engine blowout on a Qantas A380, but that both Rolls-Royce and Airbus would review designs.

Asked whether there had been any drop in bookings as a result of the highly publicised November 4 engine explosion, Emirates president Tim Clark said "no" and predicted that Rolls-Royce would resolve problems in "one or two months".

Emirates' 14 A380s are still flying because they have different engines from the type which forced a fully laden A380 to return to Singapore. Its engines are supplied by Engine Alliance, owned by GE and Pratt & Whitney.

As the largest buyer of the A380, with another 76 on order, Emirates is likely to be kept in the loop on any major developments in the fleet, though Clark said he did not have a complete picture of the changes required on Rolls engines.

"Let's not downplay this. It will have to result in modifications and changes to a large number of engines and there will be difficulties, but in the end Rolls-Royce will get a fix on this. There are perhaps issues with design and control," he said on Wednesday.

Emirates uses Rolls engines on part of its fleet.

Airbus said two fragments of the inner left engine which blew apart over Indonesia severed two electric cables in the wing. Pilots were later unable to shut a second engine down as a result.

The disclosure has raised the prospect that some A380 systems would be re-routed, but authorities have so far only ordered checks on Rolls engines, and the most visible pressure remains on Rolls to identify a fix and upgrade engines.

"I am sure Airbus will look at this. They left some dead areas around the engine," Clark said.

He paid tribute to the safety margins on board the A380, as well as the reactions of Qantas pilots.

"When I heard this I thought goodness me, this is an plane designed for fuel optimisation, range and lightness of weight and yet it was robust enough to take this blowout," he said. "Manufacturers build planes to be safe to the nth power."

A350 DELAY

Clark said Airbus faced a problem in re-jigging A380 output to cope with a potential shortage of Rolls-Royce engines. Rolls is considering diverting some engines from the A380 assembly line to supply existing Rolls operators in the A380 fleet -- Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

Emirates is about to take delivery of a 15th A380 aircraft and its next is not due until September 2011. But this date cannot be shifted forward because customised cabin fittings such as showers, which Emirates offers in first class, will not be ready, Clark said.

He also mentioned the possibility that deliveries could be delayed as Airbus tries to clear a backlog of aircraft which will by then have received upgraded Rolls engines, adding: "If that happens we will have a discussion."

In a further blow for the plane maker, Clark said he expected deliveries of the future mid-sized A350 to be delayed by a year.

Airbus this month pushed back the project by a few months but said it still expected to make the first delivery to Qatar Airways in the second half of 2013.

"I think it will face a few delays. I won't be surprised if we get our first aircraft a year late," Clark said. The current schedule calls for first delivery to Emirates in 2014 or 2015.

Clark said he hoped Airbus would reconsider the design of the largest variant of the A350, the A350-1000, to carry more people with extra range. The plane is currently designed to carry 350 people 8,300 nautical miles, or 15,372 kilometres.

(Reuters)