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Airbus faces new jet delays at Hamburg plant

Paris - For two years Airbus faced a shortage of engines and had to slow jet deliveries. Now engines are arriving fast - but fresh snags mean a Hamburg plant that assembles best-selling jets is having trouble absorbing them, industry sources said

Paris - For two years Airbus faced a shortage of engines and had to slow jet deliveries. Now engines are arriving fast - but fresh snags mean a Hamburg plant that assembles best-selling jets is having trouble absorbing them, industry sources said.

The internal snags have exacerbated delivery delays that leave Airbus with the challenge of delivering 76 single-aisle planes per month in the last quarter, according to consultants Flight Ascend, 9.6 percent more than its previous record.

Airbus is working flat out to maintain this year’s target of 800 total aircraft deliveries needed to meet financial goals and single-aisle assembly lines are its most important cash cow.

“They’re late; everyone is mad at them. They’ve been hiding behind the engine problems,” a senior aircraft buyer said, referring to the tendency of supply chains to focus on the most visible laggards without always tackling problems in waiting.

Other industry sources say Hamburg may not be the immediate source of the problem, but that this facility has felt the worst impact in Airbus’s global jigsaw of assembly plants because it is introducing a new version of A321 just as production is running faster than ever.

That illustrates a wider challenge as planemakers struggle to introduce new models and fix technical issues without pausing record output increases – a task some compare to taking the steepest hill in a cycle race at a sprint while fixing a tyre. Deliveries of the A321, a large single-aisle jet mainly made in Germany, spiked higher in May as delayed engines started coming in but slowed down again in September, Airbus data shows.

Now, Airbus is introducing a new A321neo ACF version, which offers more flexible cabins but requires complex configuration.

One of the sources said the Hamburg assembly plant was facing some problems with cabling the jets, stirring memories of cabling problems which plagued the A380 superjumbo a decade ago.

Airbus had no immediate comment. The ramp-up has also increased quality problems, leading to more delays and a queue of undelivered jets, Reuters reported last month.

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