Airbus A380 Arrives in Australia

The Airbus A380 touched down in Sydney Tuesday, part of a global round of test flights aimed at earning the superjumbo its air-worthiness certification by the end of the year.

Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd. affirmed its commitment to buying 20 of the 555-seat planes despite repeated delays that have pushed back delivery of the carrier's first A380 by around two years.

"Just as when we first ordered it in 2000, the aircraft remains the most suitable aircraft for Qantas to operate into the future on long haul routes between Australia and the United States and United Kingdom," Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti said in a statement.

"Our commitment to the A380 was further confirmed recently when we ordered an additional eight aircraft," he said.

Qantas said it expects to receive all 20 of its A380s between August 2008 and 2015.

Singapore Airlines is slated to be the first carrier to fly the superjumbo after it receives its first plane in October 2007 - a year later than originally planned. Subsequent deliveries have suffered longer delays, averaging two years.

Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., have blamed wiring problems for the delays, which they say will wipe 4.8 billion euros ($6.3 billion) off in profit over the next four years.

The A380's head of product marketing, Corrin Higgs, refused to say whether the October 2007 delivery date was fixed.

"I wouldn't say set in stone. I can't guarantee the future," Higgs told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper's online edition. "I think we will make sure our predictions are correct this time because I don't think our customers are willing to accept further delays."

The doubledecker Airbus A380 was greeted by dozens of onlookers at Sydney Airport early Tuesday after an overnight flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, via the South Pole.

The plane is set to remain in Sydney until midday Wednesday before taking off for Vancouver, Canada, and later France via the North Pole, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The flights are aimed at putting the world's largest passenger aircraft through 150 hours of flights under the kind of operating conditions it will experience with airlines.

The superjumbo is on track for certification by mid-December, Airbus spokeswoman Maggie Bergsma has said.


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