More Setbacks for Airbus Superjumbo Jet

Alonso also says more than 60 airports will be ready to handle the A-380 when it finally enters service, including New York's John F. Kennedy International and San Francisco International.

Pilots have shown that this huge plane, with its eight-story-high tail, has a takeoff speed when it is fully loaded of 155 knots, slightly less than the 747. Flight tests have shown the plane uses 2,000 fewer feet of runway to land than a 747, according to Alonso.

"We have demystified the issue of airport compatibility," he said.

The first production model is now at an Airbus factory in Hamburg, Germany, where its seats and the rest of its interior are being installed. Singapore Airlines plans to carry only 480 passengers, fewer than the 555 planned by some other airlines. It is also much fewer than the 853 who were aboard for the successful evacuation test.

Airlines Frustrated With Delays

Clearly Singapore and the other airlines that bought the A-380 -- cargo carriers FedEx and UPS were the only U.S. airlines to order the plane -- are grumbling. Some are even talking about canceling their orders, according to industry sources.

Leahy, Airbus' chief operating officer, says penalty compensation is likely, but he does not believe Airbus will lose any orders. There are firm orders for 159 planes. Two hundred fifty orders are needed for Airbus to break even on its $12 billion investment in the A-380. There has not been a new order this year.

Boeing, meanwhile, has announced 363 firm orders for the single-deck, less-expensive 787.

Business Week is reporting that the 787 itself faces delays. Boeing says that because it is pushing state-of-the-art technology, some glitches can be expected. The company plans to begin flight testing the 787 next year.

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