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After Years of Delay, Airbus Delivers an A380

CNBC.com with Wire Copy
Monday, 15 Oct 2007 | 9:49 AM ET

European aircraft maker Airbus delivered its first long-awaited A380 to Singapore Airlines Monday, finally giving parent EADS some good news to trumpet after two years of delays in delivering the world’s largest passenger aircraft and recent allegations of insider trading at the company.

"This is a game-changing airplane for the 21st century, just like the 747 was in the 20th century," John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers at Airbus, told CNBC Europe's Anna Martin.

"A lot of people forget that back in 1970 when the 747 entered service, you had two perfectly good intercontinental aircraft, the 707 and the DC8," Leahy said. "They became obsolete overnight when people had a choice to go on the 747. The same thing is going to happen with that aircraft over there."

CEO Tom Enders thanked customers for sticking with the aircraft and said that increasing production to meet demand for the A380 "remains our greatest challenge for the next few years."

After 2 Years of Waiting

Airbus has gone though five CEOs as multiple delays in the A380 program resulted in massive write-offs and a restructuring plan that foresees 10,000 job cuts over four years -- not to mention billions of dollars in lost profit.

Such delays have hurt more than just profits: Airbus' reputation has suffered, and US rival Boeing grabbed the top sales spot in 2006. Boeing last week announced a six-month delay to its hot-selling 787 Dreamliner.

"To have a strong management team is certainly an absolute prerequisite to be successful in business," Enders told CNBC. "But what is as important, or more important, is to change the processes, to have more integration in the company because that was one of the root causes, if not the root cause, of the problems we had on the A380".

EADS has been in the news recently due after Le Figaro reported that the aerospace company was being investigated for insider trading beginning four years ago, when Airbus issued its first warning of delays to the A380.

"We've heard nothing, been charged with nothing, I think what we need is a quick end to it so that we can have some stability at Airbus," Leahy told CNBC.

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