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Building on a record year (2014)

In a major milestone for Airbus’ market-leading widebody product line, the next-generation A350 -900 received its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Type Certification in September.

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 upon a successful 2013 with several important programme milestones being achieved this year.

Among the highlights are the first flight of Airbus’ A320neo (new engine option) jetliner, Type Certification of the A350-900 from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as the launch of the A330neo (new engine option) version during July’s Farnborough Airshow.

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.

A single-aisle evolution takes flight

The first A320neo jetliner to fly lifts off the ground at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport’s Runway 32L to begin its landmark maiden flight.

Airbus marked an aviation milestone with the 25 September first flight of its A320neo, the fastest-selling commercial airliner ever – which performed an approximately two-and-a-half-hour evaluation that began and concluded at France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. 

This first flight activity officially kicked off the NEO flight test and certification programme, which is to include some 3,000 flight hours across eight aircraft: two A320neos, one A321neo and one A319neo for each of the two latest-generation engine types (Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM and the CFM International LEAP-1A).

The NEO project’s many innovations, including the two engine choices and standard Sharklet wingtip devices, result in up to 20 per cent fuel savings – while sharing 95 per cent commonality with A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft.

As of the NEO’s first flight, the company had accumulated more than 10,000 orders for its best-selling single-aisle product line, including more than 3,200 A320neo aircraft from over 60 customers worldwide. 

As a result of its strong single-aisle 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.

Preparing for duty

The A350 XWB Family “flies together” during an impressive five-aircraft formation flight in late September.

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 a key step leading up to the aircraft’s initial customer delivery, the A350-900 received its Type Certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 30 September, which was followed by its U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Type Certification on 12 November.

The company’s 14-month A350-900 flight test and certification programme comprised a five-aircraft fleet of jetliners, which performed over 2,600 flight hours combined. During this campaign, Airbus successfully completed the certification trials which take the airframe and its systems beyond their design limits to ensure airworthiness criteria are fully met. 

As the newest member in Airbus’ market-leading widebody product line, the A350 XWB has accumulated 750 orders from 39 customers through October 2014.

Introducing…the A330neo

Airbus’ A330neo programme comprises two versions – the A330-800neo and A330-900neo – which incorporate new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, along with aerodynamic improvements and the latest in the company’s cabin technology to provide unmatched operating economics.

As one NEO programme counted 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 – with the first such A330-300 variant entering final assembly in November – 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 in July, 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

Becoming the world’s 12th A380 operator, Qatar Airways took delivery of its initial double-deck jetliner during a September ceremony in Hamburg, Germany.

Now in its sixth year of commercial service, the Airbus A380 continues to exceed expectations as its global operator base grows, with Asiana Airlines and Qatar Airways both receiving their first of these double-deck jetliners in 2014. 

Qatar Airways became the latest customer to take delivery of an A380 during a September handover ceremony at Airbus’ Hamburg, Germany site. Citing the A380’s “mighty wings,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said the A380 – with its unrivalled efficiency and space – will support the carrier’s expanding operations and signature service standard.

This follows the delivery of Asiana Airlines’ no. 1 A380 aircraft, which was handed over during a ceremony held in Toulouse, France on 26 May. The South Korea-based carrier was the 11th worldwide operator to receive Airbus’ 21st century flagship – a key element in Asiana Airlines’ future vision and fleet modernisation strategy. 

The A380 also 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

The Airbus Comfort Zone’s full-scale cabin mockup at February’s Singapore Airshow offered attendees the chance to experience the difference between the company’s standard economy class 18-inch wide seat and a 17-inch wide seat.

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 a worldwide campaign in 2014, this new messaging underscores Airbus’ modern standard for comfort – 18-inch wide seats in full-service economy class – which provide superior comfort for travellers, while still offering airlines unrivalled operating economics and fuel efficiency.  The company’s standard 18-inch wide seats for full-service 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. 

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

Construction for Airbus’ U.S.-based A320 Family final assembly line continues to move forward, with steelwork nearly complete on the main building as of April 2014 – one year after the company broke ground on this facility in Mobile, Alabama.

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. 

Construction work is ongoing at the facility’s main final assembly hangar, powerhouse and service building. Meanwhile, the Mobile final assembly line’s initial group of production employees – including manufacturing engineers, station managers and a quality manager – have commenced on-the-job training at Airbus’ facilities in Europe, following two months of training in Mobile.

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

A December ceremony marked the 200th A320 Family aircraft assembled by the Airbus Tianjin Final Assembly Line, underscoring the company’s highly successful partnership with China.

Airbus has achieved key milestones and further strengthened its mutually beneficial cooperation with China this year. In December, an event at the company’s Airbus Tianjin Final Assembly Line (FALC) marked the site’s 200th jetliner assembled – an A319 handed over to China Eastern Airlines. 

The company also laid a foundation for its future cooperation with China by signing agreements 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 which the final assembly line’s capabilities will be further developed. 

Airbus, the Tianjin Free Trade Zone and AVIC also are cooperating to establish the A330 Completion and Delivery Centre in Tianjin – which was reconfirmed with the signing of a letter of intent in October. This new facility likely will cover activities such as cabin installation, aircraft painting, engine runs and aircraft delivery.