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Wed, Jul 11, 2007

Airbus Assigns New A380 Wing Design Work To Wichita

Company Anticipates Nationwide Search For Qualified Engineers

To fulfill its new assignment, Airbus Wichita is going to have to hire at least 75 additional engineers between now and early 2008. Airbus has shifted responsibility of the entire wing design of the A380 to its Wichita, KS, engineering shop, according to the Wichita Business Journal.

"When there's going to be a major modification to the A380, and there will be a derivative to it, it will be our folks that will be talked to about how do you redesign the wing," says John O'Leary, Wichita site manager for Airbus North America Engineering Inc.

It will take a nationwide search to fill those engineer slots, O'Leary says.

The new work will monopolize 75 percent of the facility's workload -- which, until now, had been limited to wing sections of other Airbus aircraft. The rest will be concentrating on research and development of design principles applying to composite materials for the A350 XWB.

"That is really great for the city of Wichita," says Mayor Carl Brewer. "We have the skilled labor here and Wichita State is one of the finest engineering schools. I think they're going to be able find their engineers."

"We have a lot of students that work in research labs or work for faculty," says Scott Miller, chairman of the aerospace engineering department at Wichita State University.

"Some of them even look like they've been working for two years by the time they graduate."

Design work on the A380 was the main reason Airbus even opened the Wichita facility five years ago.

"Had we taken this on five years ago, I think it would have been a tremendous challenge," O'Leary says. "But as we've worked through those other projects, we've established a way of working such that we know how to communicate 4,500 miles away."

The first superjumbo is scheduled for delivery to Singapore Airlines later this year.

"We are on track with our production and confident that we are going to meet all of our commitments," says Clay McConnell, spokesman for Airbus North America.

One industry analyst feels Airbus Wichita should shift its focus to the A350 -- and quickly.

"As a percent of the market, the A380 is a sideshow," says Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm. "Since the A380 was launched ... it's gotten 160-something orders. In the meantime there have been about 2,000 orders for smaller aircraft for the market that the A350 plays in."

FMI: www.airbus.com, www.tealgroup.com

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