European planemaker Airbus has significantly decreased risk on its major programmes over the past 12 months and can look forward to a strong year ahead, Louis Gallois, chief executive officer of its parent company EADS has claimed.
Gallois said that the much-delayed and heavily over-budget A400M military aircraft project had progressed particularly well in 2010, pulling it back from the brink of collapse. He admitted that the entire programme was at risk of termination at one stage last year, as procurement discussions with the national launch partners had floundered. But Gallois said that those negotiations had moved forward satisfactorily in recent months and that he expected the German parliament to finalise its commitment to the project on 19 January.
The fourth A400M military airlifter made its first flight at the end of last month and Gallois said the test programme was delivering impressive results. Series production has now begun and Gallois predicted global sales of between 400-500 aircraft.
On the A380 project, Gallois said that he didn’t expect the recent Trent engine failure on a Qantas superjumbo to damage the reputation of the aircraft. He said there had yet to be any clear financial evaluation of the knock-on effect of the incident but confirmed that Airbus would “gently” request compensation from Trent 900 manufacturer Rolls-Royce if need be. He said: “Co-operation with Rolls-Royce on this incident has been remarkable in terms of the level of information provided and the way we have worked to serve customers.”
Gallois insisted that Airbus had “taken back control” of manufacturing processes on the A380 programme over the course of 2010 and that it would start producing two aircraft a month in 2011.
In terms of the wider EADS organisation, Gallois said the company had enough cash reserves to enable it to make significant acquisitions and confirmed that it was looking to expand its footprint in the US and in emerging nations such as China and India. That brought about the prospect of establishing additional design offices in places like Bangalore.
But Gallois said that geographic expansion would not necessarily lead to the closure of established design and engineering facilities. “We have the capacity to develop our business outside Europe without jeopardising our European presence,” he added.