Airbus encounters A350 wing drilling problems

Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:16pm EDT
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By Victoria Bryan and Tim Hepher

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Airbus has encountered problems in drilling holes in the wings on its new A350 passenger jet, helping to drive shares in parent EADS down on Wednesday as analysts reported signals that the glitches were taking longer than expected to resolve.

An Airbus spokeswoman quoted Didier Evrard, the head of the A350 programme, as saying on Wednesday there had been a delay of about four weeks in sorting out software for the robot at Broughton, Wales, that will drill the wings for the A350.

"The A350 final assembly is progressing well, but there are some problems in drilling holes in the wing (to fasten the skins to the structure), which is taking longer than expected," UBS analysts said in a research note.

"It is not possible to quantify the impact of these delays but we believe them to be well within our base assumption of a 1 year delay and a 1 billion euro (1.25 euros per share) overrun".

Airbus's chief operating officer reiterated the schedule for the A350 can be achieved but remains tight.

"I would say that with the A350 we have made great progress. We delivered (sections of the first test aircraft) as promised to the final assembly line. The overall timing of our commitment is still doable, but challenging," Gunter Butschek told Reuters in an interview at the Farnborough Airshow.

However some analysts expressed concerns that the wing drilling problems could lead to financial charges, whose timing could depend on whether they had yet been quantified.

Shares in Airbus parent EADS fell 4.7 percent after rising 16.9 percent so far this year.   Continued...

A model of an Airbus A350 passenger plane is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip