On the back of a solid first quarter, Airbus is keenly eyeing its future. The planemaker remains committed to a ramp-up in its production rates for the A320 family, beginning in the third quarter of the year. In a bid to avoid bottlenecks with engine supply, it is pushing its providers to begin scaling up sooner rather than later.
A320 production rate ramp-up begins in Q3
European manufacturer Airbus is keenly looking towards the future. Speaking on the planemaker’s first-quarter earnings call, CEO of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, said that he felt the industry had reached an ‘inflection point.’ He noted that although he did not expect the recovery to be linear, it was, indeed, underway.
Part of that recovery, for Airbus at least, is getting the A320 product line working at full steam. Throughout the pandemic, output has been limited to 40 aircraft per month, but by the second half of the year, Airbus is keen to increase this once more.
By the third quarter, Airbus wants to ramp up to 43 aircraft per month, rising to 45 per month by the final quarter of the year. While the Airbus chief expressed concern with the ongoing crisis in India, he didn’t believe this would impact the manufacturer’s plans to scale up production of the A320 family. He said,
“For ’22, ’23 and moving forward, we see the need for a ramp up on the single aisle. We had indicated earlier this year our production rates for Q3 and Q4 on the single aisle, and we are not changing that forecast. We will maintain our Q3 and Q4 anticipated production rates. That is the start of the recovery on the single aisle.”
Reaching 45 aircraft per month by the end of the year would be good progress for Airbus, but still a fair way behind its original plan of 60 aircraft per month in 2020. However, with predictions that the market will remain depressed until 2023 to 2024, slow and steady appears to be the best strategy.
Gearing up engine suppliers
Of course, it’s not just Airbus’ own factories that need to be prepared for the ramp-up. With engines for the A320 family sourced from both Pratt & Whitney, with the PW1100G, and from CFM International, with the LEAP-1A, those suppliers need to be ready to scale up their operations too.
As reported today in Bloomberg, Airbus is already working with its engine makers to scale up production to meet the forthcoming demand. Engine supply has, in the past, been a limiting factor in the speed at which aircraft can be dispatched from Toulouse. With the pandemic supplying something of a restart opportunity, Airbus is keen to avoid any bottlenecks going forward.
CFM International is a collaboration between Safran and General Electric and supplies not only the engines for the A320 family of jets but also for Boeing’s 737 MAX. Speaking on a conference call, CEO Oliver Andries noted that there are challenges within the supply chain that need to be overcome, commenting,
“The ramp-up could be strong in 2022 and beyond. The supply chain was weakened by Covid and there was restructuring. We’re getting ready, working with our suppliers to see how they are getting prepared, it’s an issue that merits our attention.”
As well as preparing for Airbus’ push on the A320 line at the back end of this year, Safran is also in discussions about the forthcoming A321XLR. Andries noted that the CFM engine was a ‘good fit’ for the long-range narrowbody, and that it believes it could meet the performance push required for this new aircraft.