Airbus is working to repurpose an area of the former Bombardier Mirabel factory that was left fallow after the Canadian planemaker ended CRJ production. The 100,000 square feet will become a pre-assembly plant for the A220 line of aircraft, feeding partially completed fuselages to both Mirabel and Mobile, Alabama. The facility is due to come into operation in 2022.
Airbus investing in Mirabel expansion
Despite all the challenges facing the aviation industry right now, Airbus is showing plenty of confidence in its Mirabel production plant. The facility, which produces the A220 range of aircraft, is receiving a ‘substantial investment,’ as Airbus looks to reclaim the space that Bombardier left behind.
The former manufacturer of what was then called the CSeries vacated the entire plant when it exited the commercial aviation business. An area formerly used for assembling the CRJ line of regional jets has been vacant since the program ended. Bombardier left with all its equipment, leaving behind a vast 100,000 square feet of factory space.
Now, Airbus is taking over this part of the plant, and fitting it out to pre-assemble the A220 range of aircraft. Florent Massou, head of the A220 program at Airbus, told le Journal de Montreal that a ‘substantial investment’ would be made to equip the space, without indicating what level of financing would be applied by Airbus.
The European aircraft manufacturer has already indicated it intends to invest around a billion euros in the A220 program this year. To help finance this investment, it borrows on the markets, helped by a partial guarantee by the government of Quebec, which remains a 25% shareholder in the program.
What will the plant be used for?
Kitting out 100,000 square feet is going to give Airbus some significant capacity to double down on its production capabilities for the A220 program. Le Journal states that it has taken inspiration from its European processes, where sub-assemblies for the A320 family are produced in Saint-Nazaire, before being fed to the final assembly lines.
The plan is to install the electrical wiring and floors in the fuselages in this new facility. Lavatories and galleys will also be fitted. Once complete, the partially assembled units will be sent across to both Mirabel and Mobile, Alabama, for the final phases of construction.
Work has already begun to convert the space, and it is expected to take until the end of the year to complete. As such, we can expect the new pre-assembly line to begin operations sometime in 2022.
The move is the next step on the road to increasing the production speed of the A220. Currently, Airbus turns out the aircraft at a rate of around three to four a month. In the long term, it wants to increase this to as many as 14 a month, for a goal of 168 aircraft a year spread across both the US and the Canadian plants.
A220 wing to body inspections required
In other A220 news, the FAA has today proposed inspections on the wing-to-body faring components of constructed aircraft. A proposed Airworthiness Directive, which follows a similar directive issued by Transport Canada last October, will require airlines to inspect the aircraft and undertake repairs as required.
The directive states that,
Cracks have been reported in the longeron, frame, and tie-rod on the left and right sides of the aft WTBF structure near the tie-rod attachment … This cracking is suspected to have resulted from excessive tie-rod preload, with reports indicating that cracking begins earlier on aeroplanes with the latest of two aft WTBF configurations.
Airbus has already issued a service bulletin regarding the concern.