Number 500 of the A320 family aircraft left Airbus’ final assembly line in Tianjin, China, on Thursday. The manufacturer’s first such facility outside of Europe has sent the milestone aircraft off to China Southern Airlines. As a result of the ongoing crisis, Airbus delivered only 14 jets to China in the first half of 2020.
A320neo on its way to China Southern
Airbus’ first final assembly line outside of Europe has now delivered 500 aircraft from its A320 narrowbody family. The plane in question is an A320neo headed to China Southern Airlines. It will be the carrier’s 35th A320neo and its 141st of the A320 family.
According to China.org, the CEO of Airbus China, George Xu, said that the delivery marked a milestone in industrial cooperation between Airbus and China’s aviation industry.
Today, we’re delivering the 500th China-built #A320 Family aircraft – an #A320neo to @CSAIRGlobal.
An aircraft symbolising the excellent industrial cooperation between Airbus and China. pic.twitter.com/KBO05X0zRH
— Airbus (@Airbus) October 29, 2020
Airbus’ facility is located in Tianjin, the fourth largest city in China by population (after Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou) with an estimated population of 15,621,200. It is one of Airbus’ four global final assembly lines for the A320 family. The others are located in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Mobile, Alabama.
Production began at the plant in September 2008, and the first jetliner from the Tianjin assembly line was completed and delivered in 2009.
Brake and subsequent slowing of production
The 500 milestone should actually have arrived sooner, had all gone according to schedule. However, due to the outbreak of the pandemic in China earlier this year, the manufacturer closed down operations in Tianjin. Production came to a halt on the 5th of February, only to reopen a week later at lesser capacity to comply with government regulations. As a result, Airbus delivered only 14 aircraft to China in the first half of 2020. The original plan was for 160 planes for the whole year.
In the beginning, Airbus’ production facilities in China focused solely on narrowbodies from the A320 family. The production rate at the end of 2019 was for six single-aisle jetliners per month, accounting for almost 10% of global production. Meanwhile, in 2017, the Tianjin factory also assembled and delivered its first A330.
When the Tianjin final assembly line was opened back in 2008, it was to provide Airbus with a production site situated within one of the world’s most rapidly expanding markets. The bet paid off. During a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Paris in March 2019, an agreement was reached covering the purchase by Chinese airlines of 290 aircraft from the A320 family and ten A350 XWB jets. The deal was valued at $34 billion, and Airbus’ market share is pushing close to 50%.
Airbus has had an official presence in China since 1994 and to date has delivered close to 2,000 commercial jetliners to Chinese carriers. The manufacturer and its joint ventures employ over 1,900 workers in various locations across the country. Close to 800 of employees are at the Tianjin final assembly.
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