UPDATE 2-Airbus names new A380 chief
(Recasts, adds Airbus spokeswoman comment)
PARIS, July 10 (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus named a new head for its project to build the world's largest airliner on Thursday, after plucking its previous leader out of the job to fill a sudden gap at the helm of one if its key divisions.
It named 51-year-old Alain Flourens as head of the A380 superjumbo programme, replacing Mario Heinen who will run the planemaker's cross-border division responsible for fuselage and cabins across the Airbus fleet.
Cabin wiring problems have been blamed for delays of around two years in delivering the 525-seat double-decker A380 to airlines, helping to drive Airbus into the red.
The shake-up comes days before the world's largest air show at Farnborough in Britain, and two months after the EADS (EAD.PA) unit announced the fourth set of A380 delivery delays. These could last three to five months on top of average delays of two years.
Flourens was previously a senior executive on production of the A320, the single-aisle plane that dominates Airbus sales.
Heinen had been in charge of the A380 for 22 months, after his predecessor, Charles Champion, was fired in the wake of delays which rocked Airbus and its parent EADS (EAD.PA) in 2006.
He will run the "centre of excellence" for fuselages and cabins, which employs 15,000 people or almost a quarter of Airbus staff, following the abrupt departure of Ruediger Fuchs.
An Airbus spokeswoman declined to say why Fuchs had left the company but described the changes as a promotion for Heinen, saying he had been credited with stabilising the A380 project.
Heinen's "intimate knowledge of the A380 will be a great asset to secure full industrialisation of this programme," Airbus said.
The fuselage and cabins unit is one of several cross-border divisions set up last year by Airbus to reduce the autonomy of national fiefdoms, whose rivalries had been blamed for some of the industrial problems bedevilling the A380.
Airbus builds planes in France, Germany, Britain and Spain.
There have been particular tensions recently between French and German workers over the rescue plan for the A380.
Some 2,500 German workers have been transferred to the main A380 assembly factory in Toulouse, France, to wire the first 25 aircraft manually. The German workers earn 120 euros a day in off-base allowances, provoking complaints from French unions.
Europe's biggest industrial project veered off course in 2005 when French workers discovered that bundles of wiring sent from another Airbus factory at Hamburg in Germany did not fit.
A second tranche of delays wiped a quarter off Airbus parent EADS's share price in June 2006 and led to the sacking of the heads of Airbus and EADS as well as the A380 programme chief.
Battered also by a weak dollar and fears of a slump in airline orders due to weak industrial economies, EADS shares have fallen 44 percent this year, underperforming shares in rival Boeing (BA.N) which are down around 26 percent.
EADS fell 0.3 percent to 12.05 euros on Thursday. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by David Cowell and Erica Billingham)
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