Airbus built on its reputation as a global aviation leader through its philosophy for incremental innovations in 2015, while further improving its competitiveness and agility in support of future production rate increases.
The A350 XWB programme was a major focus for Airbus in 2015 – with the aircraft officially entering commercial service in January for global launch customer Qatar Airways, followed by the initial deliveries to two additional operators – Vietnam Airlines and Finnair – so far this year.
Another key achievement for Airbus was September’s official inauguration of operations of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Alabama, which is assembling the industry-leading family of A319s, A320s and A321s.
The Mobile location is part of the global network of four final assembly lines that will allow Airbus to gradually ramp up production to the highest rate ever in civil aviation: 60 aircraft per month by mid-2019, a decision that was announced in October.
In addition, other milestones in 2015 included the company’s 9,000th aircraft delivery in March, and May’s handover of the first increased 242-tonne-takeoff weight A330 variant.
The inauguration of Airbus’ U.S. Manufacturing Facility culminated with the placement of a ceremonial placard on a component for the first A320 Family aircraft to be produced in Mobile, Alabama.
Boosting A320 Family production
To meet the worldwide demand for its best-selling single-aisle aircraft, Airbus has marked several key milestones for the production of its A320 Family jetliners.
In October, the company announced its decision to gradually increase the A320 Family production rate to 60 aircraft built per month by mid-2019 across four worldwide final assembly lines.
Following a thorough study of ramp-up readiness at Airbus and throughout its supply chain, the rate increase will be enabled by the creation of an additional production line in Hamburg, Germany and integration of cabin furnishing activities into the A320 final assembly line in Toulouse, France, which harmonises activities at the four A320 Family production sites worldwide.
This decision follows the official startup of A320 Family aircraft production at Mobile, Alabama during the summer – a game-changer in the important United States marketplace.
The new Mobile facility joins existing the final assembly lines in Hamburg; Toulouse; and Tianjin, China.
Delivery of the first U.S.-made Airbus commercial aircraft – an A321 – is scheduled for next spring, and by 2018, the site will be producing between 40 and 50 single-aisle aircraft per year. According to Airbus’ market forecast, the North American market is expected to require some 4,700 single-aisle aircraft over the next 20 years.
As of its official inauguration on 14 September, approximately 260 production employees were working on the A320 Family final assembly line at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Alabama.
The A350 XWB: building operational momentum
The next-generation A350 XWB jetliner became a key symbol for Airbus as the aircraft officially entered airline service in 2015 with a growing number of operators around the world.
Finnair – a long-standing Airbus customer – became the third airline to receive this newest member of Airbus’ market-leading wide-body product line, and the jetliner type’s first European operator. Handover of Finnair’s initial A350 XWB aircraft was marked during a ceremony in Toulouse, France on 7 October.
This milestone comes some three months after Vietnam Airlines – the A350 XWB’s second operator – received its initial A350-900. The landmark aircraft was delivered to global lessor AerCap, which is leasing it to Vietnam Airlines for use on the carrier's long-haul routes.
In addition to welcoming two new A350 XWB operators in 2015, the aircraft also performed its historic first commercial flight during the year – a 15 January service operated by global launch customer Qatar Airways from its hub at Hamad International Airport in Doha to Frankfurt, Germany.
As the A350 XWB operator base continues to expand, Airbus also applied its philosophy of continuous innovation to this highly efficient product line. In October, the company announced the launch of the A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range), which features increased fuel carry capacity, a higher maximum takeoff weight and aerodynamic improvements to offer the capability for flights of up to 19 hours. The version was selected by Singapore Airlines, which plans to acquire seven A350-900ULRs for non-stop flights to the U.S.
Advancing A350 XWB production
Airbus delivered 14 A350-900 jetliners during 2015, ramping up the output with the goal of reaching 10 A350 XWB aircraft produced per month in 2018.
The A350-1000 version is also progressing well with this longer-fuselage version taking shape at sites across Airbus’ production network.
Announced in September, assembly has commenced for the first major fuselage components – including forward and nose fuselage sections – at Airbus’ plants in Hamburg, Germany and Saint-Nazaire, France.
Assembly activities for the first A350-1000’s wings also kicked off this year – beginning at the company’s Broughton, U.K. site during August.
Final assembly of the A350 XWB jetliner is planned to commence in Toulouse, France in early 2016, followed by a first flight in the second half of 2016.
A320neo: certified on schedule
Airbus marked a major milestone on 24 November 2015 with the certification of the first A320neo (new engine option) Family variant: the Pratt & Whitney GTF™ engine-equipped A320neo. This aircraft version received its Type Certificate from both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Completing a rigorous 14-month flight test programme since the Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo’s maiden flight, the jetliner’s airworthiness approval paves the way for the first delivery and subsequent entry into service. Certification of the A320neo powered by the other engine option – CFM International’s LEAP-1A – is planned for the coming months, which will be followed by the A321neo and A319neo versions with each powerplant type.
During the year, Airbus also expanded the single-aisle NEO Family’s offerings with the official announcements of an increased 97-tonne maximum takeoff weight A321neo variant for new long-haul markets of up to 4,000 nautical miles, and two new corporate jet members: the highly-capable ACJ319neo and ACJ320neo.
Underscoring the A320neo Family’s continuing position as a market leader, Airbus signed a purchase agreement with India’s IndiGo in August, which covers 250 new engine option single-aisle jetliners and is the company’s largest-ever order in terms of number of aircraft booked. The deal helped bring the backlog for the A320neo Family to over 4,300 jetliners ordered by a global customer base through October.
A330neo: powering the way forward
Approximately one year after the programme was launched, Airbus’ A330neo (new engine option) “came to life” – with the company kicking off its production for this wide-body NEO programme during the summer of 2015. This activity included the machining of the first engine pylon in Airbus’ Saint-Eloi location near Toulouse, France, as well as the start of production for the initial A330neo centre wing box at the company’s plant in Nantes, France.
In 2015, Airbus also marked significant achievements for the enhanced CEO (current engine option) A330 Family aircraft that are serving as the platform for developing the NEO. In a key milestone that occurred during May, U.S.-based Delta Air Lines took delivery of the first 242-tonne maximum takeoff weight A330-300 variant, which provides more capabilities at lower operating costs. Air China and Scandinavian Airlines also welcomed this enhanced A330 into their fleets during the year.
As a result of the continuous innovation philosophy applied to the A330 Family, these jetliners continued to demonstrate their popularity in service for a global operator base. In June, Airbus signed a General Terms Agreement for 45 A330 Family aircraft and a Memorandum of Understanding covering options for 30 A330s with China Aviation Supplies Holding Company – a strong endorsement for this versatile wide-body product line in the world’s fastest growing market, and another example of the A330’s ongoing success.
Paris Air Show: continued commercial momentum
Airbus’ market-leading product line received a strong endorsement during the 2015 International Paris Air Show, with 421 new firm orders and commitments (worth more than $57 billion at list prices) announced by the company during this biennial industry event, which was held in June.
Among the milestone agreements were Wizz Air’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed for 110 A321neo aircraft, which helped push total orders and commitments for Airbus’ single-aisle NEO (new engine option) beyond 4,000.
Air Astana’s seven-aircraft deal with Air Lease Corporation that includes four A321neo Long Range (LR) jetliners, making it the first airline to announce plans to operate the type; Saudi Arabian Airlines’ decision to add 20 A330 Regionals to its fleet, becoming the launch customer; and more.
Also included with the commercial announcements was the agreement between Airbus and JAMCO for the development, manufacture, supply and support of a new aft galley and lavatory module option to increase cabin efficiency on the A350 XWB, while maintaining high levels passenger comfort.
Formulating the future
As part of the high-profile Airbus presence at June’s Paris Air Show, the company put a spotlight on aviation’s future with release of its latest Global Market Forecast (GMF) – which projects a worldwide need for 32,585 new passenger aircraft between 2015 and 2034.
This forward-looking report factors in such key market drivers as demographics, trade, tourism flows, oil prices, environmental issues and competition; and explains how each will help shape the aviation sector’s continued evolution and expansion in the years to come.
The 2015-2034 Global Market Forecast – entitled “Formulating the Future” – serves as a reference for airlines, airports, investors, governments, non-government agencies and others.
Learn more on the dedicated Global Market Forecast page.
Underscoring the ongoing demand for Airbus’ comprehensive and modern product line from customers around the world, the company delivered its 9,000th aircraft in March – an A321 received by Vietnam’s VietJetAir.
The landmark delivery came less than two years after Airbus’ 8,000th handover, highlighting its sustained levels of high production, which are set to rise even further as demand grows.
Deliveries allowing Airbus to reach this milestone include more than 800 of the cornerstone A300/A310 jetliners supplied during a successful production run; over 6,450 A320 Family aircraft provided; 1,500-plus long-range A330 and A340 aircraft; more than 150 A380s; and the initial next-generation A350 XWB aircraft.
Airbus marked the delivery of its 9,000th aircraft – which was an A321 provided to VietJetAir – in March.
BizLab: bringing innovative ideas to market
As part of its strategy to stay at the forefront of the aviation sector by enhancing its agility, Airbus formally launched its first global aerospace business accelerator – located in Toulouse, France – during March, with a second site at Hamburg, Germany inaugurated in September.
Called Airbus BizLab, this initiative brings together start-ups and Airbus “intrapreneurs” (internal entrepreneurs) to speed up the transformation of innovative ideas into valuable businesses. The Airbus BizLab accepts applications for acceleration programmes from entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and Airbus employees – with a screening committee selecting the most promising ideas.
In September, the company launched its second round of applications for start-ups seeking support through this global Airbus initiative. This follows Airbus BizLab’s first call, which selected the projects of five companies: Germany’s 3d Trust, OBUU from Spain, the Hong Kong-based PaperClip Design; and France’s SimSoft 3D and UWinLoc.
Expanding a successful partnership with China
Building on a successful partnership for the A320 Family final assembly line in China, Airbus and the Tianjin Free Trade Zone Investment Company Ltd. (TJFTZ) and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), signed a framework agreement to set up an A330 completion and delivery centre in Tianjin.
To be located near the existing final assembly line, the A330 completion and delivery centre in Tianjin will cover such activities as aircraft reception, cabin installation, painting, engine runs and flight testing, as well as aircraft delivery and customer acceptance. The Clément Ader Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France will be responsible for structural of the assembly of the aircraft to be completed in Tianjin, before the jetliners are flown to China.
A signing ceremony for this agreement was held during July in Toulouse in the presence of visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. On the same occasion, Airbus also signed a Letter of Intent with AVIC on cabin development cooperation and a procurement framework contract with Zhejiang Xizi Aerospace Fastener Co., Ltd for design, development, manufacturing, and supply of standard fastener parts.