Airbus Concedes Fuselage Was Weak

PARIS -- Airbus acknowledged Monday that it had reinforced the rear fuselage of its superjumbo A380 after problems were detected, but insisted that the issue was not the cause of delays in the plane's production timetable.

Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht sought to play down a report in German weekly Der Spiegel on Monday describing troubles with a section of fuselage in the rear cone of the world's biggest passenger plane.

"It is absolutely not abnormal during the development phase of any aircraft that you find you have to do reinforcements here and there," she said from Toulouse, France, where the European plane maker is based.

A "minor" problem was discovered with section 19 of the fuselage during a trial flight in Toulouse, Kracht said. The fault was fixed in April, she said.

She would not reveal estimates of how much the reinforcement cost or give any other details. Kracht said it did not cause any adjustments in the double-decker plane's production schedule, which has already been pushed back more than a year.

The latest delays, announced last month, sent stock in Airbus' parent company European Aeronautic Defense and Space plunging, led to a management shakeup and angered airlines worldwide that have been awaiting delivery of the A380.

Airbus has sought to soothe investors and customers since then. Markets appeared to largely shrug off the confirmation of the fuselage problems, with shares in EADS dropping just 0.5 percent Monday to §20.97 ($26.59).

Der Spiegel said internal Airbus documents showed that at the beginning of March, the company decided to strengthen the problematic fuselage -- resulting in extra costs and extra weight.

In 2004, Der Spiegel was the first to reveal that the A380 was overweight, leading to major cost overruns.

Despite the problems, the A380 won a new show of confidence last week when Singapore Airlines said it would exercise an option to pick up nine more of the planes at the Farnborough International Airshow.