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Airbus says Qantas A350 delivery delays due to need to redesign extra fuel tank

Published 02/21/2024, 10:06 PM
Updated 02/22/2024, 07:36 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Logos of Airbus are seen at the Milipol Paris, the worldwide exhibition dedicated to homeland security and safety, in Villepinte near Paris, France, November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

By Brenda Goh and Praveen Menon

SINGAPORE/SYDNEY (Reuters) -Airbus faces delays in introducing an ultra-long-range version of its A350-1000 jet designed for Qantas Airways' non-stop Sydney-London flights because a regulator has asked it to redesign an extra fuel tank, a senior executive said.

"The regulator has asked us to redesign the centre tank on the ultra-long-range airplane for Sunrise," Christian Scherer, the CEO of Airbus' commercial aircraft business said on Thursday on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow, referring to the airline's "Project Sunrise" flights from Sydney to London.

Qantas said on Thursday the delivery dates for its first A350-1000 planes capable of the ultra-long-range flights had been pushed back by about six months to mid-2026.

"We have to redesign the centre tank, the extra fuel tank, that will allow the Sunrise mission, and that's what explains the shift," Scherer said.

Global aviation regulators have been more closely scrutinising design changes on aircraft variants since two deadly Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019, in which a new anti-stall system was a contributing factor.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was working with Airbus to define the requirements and means of compliance for the fuel tank to be installed on the ultra-long-range version of the A350-1000.

"This is a collaborative process aimed at achieving the required level of safety for this new design feature," an EASA spokesperson said in a statement. "EASA is confident the certification process in place will achieve its goals, thanks to the good level of cooperation between all stakeholders."

Airbus had faced delays in its A321XLR long-range narrow-body programme after concerns were raised with regulators that a novel type of fuel tank could pose fire risks. The issues have since been resolved.

Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson (NYSE:HUD) said the A350-1000 delay was due to certification of the first aircraft taking longer than expected.

"However, we believe that the fleet for the 12 aircraft that will come, will come relatively quickly after that," she told reporters.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Logos of Airbus are seen at the Milipol Paris, the worldwide exhibition dedicated to homeland security and safety, in Villepinte near Paris, France, November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

Hudson added that demand for non-stop flying remained strong, as shown by the carrier's Perth-London flights and new Perth-Paris services.

"So we are more than ever confident that the business case still stands, and that the aircraft's six-month delay is not a concern," she said.

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