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"Wider Fallout From Paris Terminal's Collapse"


 
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Wider Fallout From Terminal's Collapse
By MARK LANDLER
The New York (NY) Times

 
FRANKFURT, - The deadly collapse of a passenger terminal at Charles de
Gaulle Airport near Paris on Sunday is likely to cause wide ripples in
French industrial circles, perhaps even affecting the introduction of
the Airbus A380 jumbo jet, Europe's answer to the Boeing 747.

Air France, which has ordered 10 of the 555-seat planes, had planned to
use the building, Terminal 2E, and an adjacent satellite terminal, which
is still under construction, to handle the A380. 

But on Monday, a day after four people were killed by a falling roof,
the future of Terminal 2E looked grim. Cracking noises, like the ones
that preceded the collapse, were heard elsewhere in the building,
forcing inspectors to flee, and raising the prospect that it will have
to be demolished.

Airbus said it was premature to say how the collapse would affect the
readiness of the airport to handle the A380. Air France had already
asked Airbus to delay its delivery of the new planes to March 2007 from
November 2006, so the carrier could complete its facilities at Terminal
2E.

"I can't speculate whether they will tear down the terminal," said Tore
Prang, a spokesman for Airbus, which is based in Toulouse and is
controlled by a consortium of European aerospace manufacturers. "We'll
have to wait a little bit until they have taken their final decision."

Air France insisted that even if Terminal 2E were leveled, it would not
delay its plans to begin flying the A380. 

"Nobody could imagine that during this period of time, repairs could not
be made," the chief executive of Air France, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, said
in a statement.

Mr. Prang noted that other terminals at Charles de Gaulle Airport would
be able to accommodate the A380. And he said the runways and taxiways
would be ready by 2006, when the plane goes into service.

The A380 is likely to face more twists between now and then. On Monday,
as Airbus executives assessed the implications of the accident in Paris,
the plane received a vote of confidence in Germany.

The German carrier Lufthansa announced plans to raise 750 million euros
($895 million) in a rights offering to help finance its purchase of the
A380. Lufthansa ordered 15 planes in late 2001. At list prices, the
order was worth $3.6 billion, though Lufthansa, like most airlines,
received a discount.

"The A380 will give us a huge competitive advantage," the chief
executive of Lufthansa, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, said, in announcing the
rights offering in Frankfurt. "It will revolutionize long-haul flights
and accelerate changes in the industry. We'll get a return on the
investment."

All told, Airbus has booked 129 orders for the A380. Two weeks ago, it
unveiled the first plane at a ceremony in its factory in Toulouse. But
as the date for the inauguration of commercial service draws closer, the
issue of fitting out airports to handle the plane has become sticky.

Airbus said that 14 airports were equipped to serve the A380, but that
most of them were in Asia, with none in the United States. Virgin
Atlantic Airlines said this month that it would put off delivery of its
A380's because of delays in the preparation of Los Angeles International
Airport.

The airport said in a statement that it would be ready "to accommodate
the A380 with the highest standards of safety when the first airline
begins using the aircraft at LAX in late 2006."

Attached Photo:

How well airports will be able to handle the giant aircraft has long
been a question about the Airbus A380.

25air.583.jpg


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