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Airbus announces delay on A350

The Airbus A350 XWB is the latest new airplane program to face a delay.

Airbus’ parent company, EADS, announced Thursday that entry-into-service for its long-range composite jet is now expected in the first half of 2014. That could mean up to a six-month delay; it originally was scheduled for 2013.

"I am confident the commercial aircraft market combined with our strong backlog will sustain our growth in the years to come," Louis Gallois, EADS CEO, said in a statement. "Our large program developments, especially the A350, continue to have our highest management attention."

Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems is designing and building the composite center fuselage section and front wing spar for the plane at its facility in Kinston, N.C. Spirit shipped the first upper shell section to its plant in Saint-Nazaire, France, last month.

It plans to ship the lower section later this year. Spirit won Airbus the contract in 2008.

Airbus’ announcement of a schedule slide will not have an impact on Spirit, said company spokesman Ken Evans.

"We continue working with our customer to meet their requirements and delivery schedule for the pre-final assembly phase," Evans said. "We’re very focused, and we need to be on any development program like this. That’s unchanged."

The Airbus A350 will compete with Boeing’s composite 787 Dreamliner. Boeing faced three years of delays on the 787 program, which Spirit also does work on.

The A350 program is advancing, EADS said. Manufacturing and pre-assembly of the A350-900 are progressing across all pre-final assembly sites. The start of the final assembly line is now scheduled for the first quarter of 2012.

EADS’ net profit in the third quarter rose to $424 million, up from $17.7 million a year earlier. The company took a $273 million charge linked to the A350 XWB program.

Airbus delivered 376 aircraft during the first nine months of 2011. The company expects to deliver between 520 and 530 aircraft this year. Last year Airbus delivered a record 510 aircraft and took in 574 net new aircraft orders.

EADS’ chief financial officer said the decision to delay the A350’s launch and take the charge was done “to ensure that the aircraft is mature and trouble-free when delivered.”

“It’s not about simply meeting deadlines,” EADS chief financial officer Hans Peter Ring said in a conference call with reporters. “We won’t move to the next phase without finishing the previous one,” he said, saying that was one of the lessons Airbus had learned from the tortured and overbudget development of its A380 super jumbo jet.

Ring blamed the A350s delay on a shortage of some parts as well as delays in delivery of some of the aircraft’s composite parts. Ring said he was confident Airbus would continue to help EADS grow its revenue and profits "despite the macroeconomic difficulties, especially in European economies."

The company expects revenue to increase by more than 4 percent this year compared to the $62.2 billion it made last year. It also forecast around 1,500 gross orders for Airbus this year, after registering 1,038 net orders by the end of September.

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