Building on a record year (2014)
Airbus is continuing its strong momentum from a record-breaking 2013, which confirmed the company’s position as a global aviation leader and its capability to meet customer expectations across its complete product line of single-aisle and widebody jetliners.
The company is building on a highly successful 2013 as it targets important programme milestones this year, including: the imminent first flight of the A320neo (new engine option) and service entry for the next-generation widebody A350 XWB jetliner: along with the launch of Airbus’ A330neo version.
This expands upon Airbus’ strong performance in 2013, during which the company set industry-wide records – both in terms of units and value – with new gross bookings for 1,619 aircraft (1,503 orders net, when cancellations are taken into account). In addition, Airbus’ 626 total jetliners delivered to 93 customers in 2013 marked a highest-ever company output.
Preparing for duty
Airbus’ next-generation A350 XWB jetliner is being readied to shape efficiency for the future of flight from its planned service entry with Qatar Airways in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In June – just over a year after MSN001’s historic first-ever takeoff – the fifth and final flight-test aircraft joined the company’s developmental fleet with MSN005’s maiden flight. As the second A350 XWB aircraft equipped with a full passenger cabin, this jetliner embodies the operationally definitive configuration for Type Certification duties and will be utilized for route proving and ETOPS (Extended range Twin Operations) validation.
As of MSN005’s first flight, the A350 XWB flight test and certification campaign had accumulated more than 2,000 flight test hours in around 500 flights – marking the highest pace ever for an Airbus flight test campaign with approximately 80 flight hours monthly per aircraft.
This included “trips” around the world for high-altitude testing in Bolivia and hot and cold weather evaluations in the United Arab Emirates and Canada, respectively, as well as two “Early Long Flights” from France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport with selected Airbus passengers aboard and service provided by Air France and Lufthansa cabin crew members. One of the A350 XWBs also went to the United States for climatic tests at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, subsequently making a flyover of the new A320 Family final assembly line being constructed on the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley near the city of Mobile, Alabama.
A single-aisle evolution takes flight
Another important development for 2014 is the scheduled first flight of the A320neo (new engine option), which is the fastest-selling commercial airliner ever.
In a key project milestone, Airbus completed assembly for the first A320neo in the early summer, following the aircraft’s painting and mounting of its Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines. Designated MSN6101, this jetliner is planned to kick off the NEO flight-test campaign this autumn.
The NEO project incorporates many innovations, including two latest-generation engine choices – CFM International’s LEAP-1A and the PW1100G-JM – and standard Sharklet wingtip devices. This results in up to 15 per cent fuel savings, while sharing 95 per cent commonality with A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft.
When factoring in new business announced through during July, the company had accumulated more than 10,000 orders for its best-selling single-aisle product line – including more than 3,000 A320neo aircraft from more than 55 customers worldwide.
As a result of this strong backlog, in February Airbus announced a gradual production ramp-up, which will occur through the second quarter of 2016, when single-aisle jetliner production is scheduled to reach 46 per month – up from the rate of 42 as of the announcement.
As one NEO programme counts down to its maiden flight, another began in 2014 with Airbus’ launch of the A330neo – which builds upon the dependable A330 Family’s proven economics, versatility and reliability, while reducing fuel consumption by a further 14 per cent per seat.
Powered by latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, the A330neo is composed of two versions: the A330-800neo and A330-900neo, which have the same fuselage length of today’s A330-200 and A330-300 current engine option jetliners, respectively. In addition to the fuel burn reduction, these two NEO aircraft will expand operators’ market opportunities with a range capability increase of approximately 400 nautical miles while carrying more payload.
The A330neo is the latest evolution of Airbus’ A330 to meet requirements of a global customer base. In addition, the company has further enhanced its A330 product line by offering an increased takeoff weight of 242 tonnes, while a lower-weight A330-300 Regional version is being developed for use on domestic and regional routes in high growth markets.
Airbus unveiled the A330neo at the Farnborough Airshow, during which it announced new business for 496 aircraft across the product line – representing the company’s best-ever performance at this biennial industry event. In addition to the 121 A330neo commitments received, orders and commitments were confirmed for Airbus’ A320, A330 and A350 XWB product lines.
The expanding A380 operator base
Now in its sixth year of commercial service, the Airbus A380 continues to exceed expectations as its global operator base grows, with four new customers to receive their first of these double-deck jetliners in 2014.
This year’s delivery activity was kicked off on 26 May with the handover of Asiana Airlines’ no. 1 A380, which occurred during a ceremony held in Toulouse, France. Asiana Airlines is the 11th operator worldwide to receive Airbus’ 21st century flagship jetliner – which is a key element in this South Korea-based carrier’s future vision and fleet modernisation strategy.
Doha-based Qatar Airways is scheduled to become the 12th A380 operator when it takes delivery of its no. 1 aircraft this year out of a firm order for 10. Airbus is also preparing to deliver the initial A380 for Japan’s Skymark Airlines in 2014, with the jetliner’s structural assembly completed in February. This Japanese carrier has six of these double-deck aircraft on order, and will become the first Japan-based operator to offer A380 service. Rounding out the list of new A380 operators this year is United Arab Emirates flag carrier Etihad Airways. Its first of 10 aircraft on order is scheduled to be provided by year-end.
The A380 began 2014 on a strong note commercially, with Amedeo (previously Doric Lease Corp) firming up its order of 20 A380s during February’s Singapore Air Show. The final agreement, which resulted from a Memorandum of Understanding announced at the 2013 Paris Air Show, expands this jetliner’s profile in the lease market – increasing the A380’s availability to new and existing customers through the flexibility of operating leases.
A focus on passenger comfort
Airbus is underscoring its commitment to the well-being of passengers who fly on its aircraft with its latest focus on “comfort without compromise.”
Highlighted during the 2014 Singapore Airshow, this new messaging underscores Airbus’ modern standard for comfort – 18-inch wide seats in full-service economy class for long haul – which provide superior comfort for travellers, while still offering airlines unrivalled operating economics and fuel efficiency.
As long-haul flights are covering greater distances and becoming more frequent, seat width is one of the most important factors for comfort aloft. The company’s standard 18-inch wide seats for full-service long-haul economy travel provide an additional inch of room compared to the 17-inch 1950s-era norm, which is still used by other aircraft manufacturers today.
The single-aisle A320 Family and the widebody A330 and A350 XWB jetliners are designed to accommodate an 18-inch wide seat in economy class, while the 21st century flagship A380 provides an even roomier 18.5-inch norm, in addition to Airbus’ offering of the latest seat options in business and first class. Airbus is also a leader in other aspects of cabin comfort, including innovative features such as LED mood lighting, connectivity and optimal air circulation.
Singapore Airshow: focus on Asia-Pacific
Underscoring its commitment to the dynamic Asia-Pacific, Airbus’ active presence at the 2014 Singapore Airshow brought new commercial announcements and partnership agreements – along with the “debut” of A350 XWB developmental jetliner MSN003 at Changi Exhibition Centre.
Airbus marked several key milestones during the show to support one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets, including the inauguration of the Satair Airbus Singapore Centre operation of the Satair Group: a wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary that merges its former Material and Logistics Management function with Satair, a Denmark-headquartered spares and aircraft maintenance company. Airbus and Singapore Airlines also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a flight-training joint venture in Asia, which will cover the complete scope of Airbus modern jetliners, along with a centre of excellence to focus on research and development of training methods and technologies.
Taking the “Airbus” name one step further
Airbus’ proven commitment to excellence and innovation in the aviation industry as well as its globally-recognized name is the basis for its parent company’s rebranding as the Airbus Group beginning in 2014.
Under the Airbus Group’s new structure Airbus – which is the company’s commercial aircraft division – will operate in close cooperation with Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) and the new Airbus Defence and Space business unit (which integrates the former Astrium, Cassidian and Airbus Military).
Airbus will complete the transfer-out of its military aircraft activities to Airbus Defence and Space by the end of 2014, having successfully brought the A400M multi-role airlifter to delivery start-up phase in 2013.
U.S. A320 final assembly line takes shape
Airbus’ new U.S. A320 Family final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama – a significant element in growing the company’s global industrial footprint – continues to progress towards the start of aircraft assembly operations, scheduled to begin in 2015.
By April 2014 – one year after the company broke ground on this facility at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley – steelwork was nearing completion for the site’s main final assembly hangar, with construction work continuing on the final assembly line’s other main buildings – including the powerhouse and service building. Meanwhile, an initial group of production employees – including manufacturing engineers, station managers and a quality manager – began on-the-job training at Airbus’ Hamburg, Germany facilities in January, following two months of training in Mobile.
The Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley even had a special “visitor” in May, with the flyover of Airbus’ MSN002 A350 XWB developmental jetliner, following extreme temperature evaluations with the aircraft in Florida at Eglin Air Force Base’s McKinley Climatic Lab.
Airbus’ “game-changing” U.S. A320 Family facility underscores its commitment to the American marketplace – one of the largest for single-aisle aircraft in the world – and will be the company’s fourth final assembly line worldwide for its single-aisle jetliner product line. First aircraft deliveries from the Alabama site are targeted for 2016, with the facility anticipated to produce between 40 and 50 jetliners annually by 2018.
Continuing partnership with China
Airbus strengthened its mutually beneficial cooperation with China, laying a foundation for the future with agreements signed during a March ceremony in Paris, witnessed by visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President François Hollande.
As part of the agreements, Airbus and its Tianjin Free Trade Zone and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) partners extended the successful joint venture to assemble Airbus single-aisle aircraft in China for an additional 10 years – covering the 2016-2025 timeframe. During this second phase, the Tianjin A320 Family final assembly line’s capabilities will be further developed, as deliveries expand to the whole Asian region, final assembly of A320neo (new engine option) commences from 2017 onwards, and more major suppliers are jointly invited to develop projects in Tianjin.
The partnership also focuses on accommodating the strong growth of China’s aviation sector with initiatives such as supporting the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) with a state-of-the-art air traffic management (ATM) system, and driving research into regional biofuel and other environmental initiatives to reduce the Chinese aviation industry’s footprint. In addition, Airbus and relevant Chinese parties are also cooperating to explore establishing an in-country widebody aircraft completion centre.
In parallel, China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS) and Airbus signed a general terms agreement for the purchase of 70 Airbus aircraft, covering 43 A320 Family jetliners and 27 A330 aircraft, underscoring the ongoing popularity of this widebody airliner in China.