[UPDATE 1] AirInsight is in Toulouse today for the A350 technical briefing.  In terms of the delay announced, the company is still maintaining its flight test program.  But this could be refined as the project evolves. Probably the biggest theme here today is risk management. The company has taken the A380 lessons to heart.

The complexity of the program is such that Airbus is seeing supply chain skills being tested. The center fuselage is proving to be trying. This includes the wing box, which is the most complex part and Airbus is monitoring the process closely.  While the original plan was to have this part ready in August/September, it is being delivered now.  This is a contributing cause of the announced delay, but seems one of others.

It seems clear that Airbus wants to buy as much time as it needs and perhaps some extra. This seems to be a lesson learned from the 787 program.  That way Airbus has more flexibility –  but crucially if Airbus is able to hold its new timeline, they could deliver sooner, since the delay may be more than has been lost to date. That would make everyone look very good.

By focusing on maturity the program is going to reduce “traveled work” to a minimum.  Based on previous programs at Airbus (and elsewhere) lessons from outsourcing and traveled work were learned the hard way. Focusing on maturity means Airbus will reduce this risk. New programs are trying to create a plug-in assembly process – and that means fully complete parts must turn up at the assembly plant. Incomplete work arriving at the assembly plant cause chaos.

New aircraft programs are so complicated already, with vastly more systems complexity, and therefore a more complex construction process ramps up the opportunities for problems. Small problems easily mushroom into bigger problems because of downstream impacts.

Here is a copy of A350 Presentation by EVP – Head of Programme A350XWB Didier Evrard we were given.]

Airbus this morning announced a delay in the A350XWB program that will result in entry to service abut a quarter to six months later than previously expected in 2014.  “Maturity of the A350 XWB main components at Final Assembly start remains one of the Group’s top priorities. Start of Final Assembly is now scheduled for Q1 2012 and Entry-into-Service is now scheduled for H1 2014.” There will be a charge of €200m and the A340 program is completed.

We are on site for the A350 briefing today and will update the news as we hear more.

With much of the slack in the program already used and suppliers having difficulties in ramping up new technologies for production, this delay has been anticipated by most analysts and has now been formalized.

Unlike the A380 and 787 programs, the A350XWB had been running more on time until this latest delay; EIS had slipped from 1H2013 to 2H2013, and our colleague Scott Hamilton at Leeham News earlier predicted a slip into 2014.  This is still far better than the 787, 747-8 and A380–provided no more slips are forthcoming.

We do not, at this point in time, anticipate a series of problems such as those that led to multiple delays and more than three years delay for the 787. We do, however, believe it entirely possible a further slip within 2014 could be forthcoming.

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