Friday, 14 May, 2021

1,000 billion euros in orders: the big challenge for Airbus

Airbus Group ended 2015 with a record order book, driven by sales of the commercial aviation division. From now on, these 6,800 planes must be delivered. Anything but fun.

L'A350 XWB d'Airbus

The course is symbolic, it is no less impressive. On the back of a very good 2015 on the commercial front, with 159 billion euros in orders, Airbus Group for the first time crossed the threshold of 1,000 billion euros in order book, announced the group during of the presentation of its 2015 results on Wednesday February 24. “One trillion”, in English, or a number with twelve zeros: a performance never achieved in commercial aviation. The figure represents, at your choice, 46% of French GDP in 2015, or the amount of private and public debt that the European Central Bank is in the process of buying back …

Why this record figure? After an extraordinary 2014 (1,456 net orders, ie deducted from cancellations), the Toulouse aircraft manufacturer continues to fuel at full speed. Airbus still collected 1,080 net orders in 2015, or three planes sold per day. As it delivered, at the same time, only 635 aircraft, the order book was further enriched by 445 aircraft, to 6,818 aircraft. And the trend is expected to continue in 2016: “We still expect orders to exceed deliveries,” said Tom Enders, executive chairman of Airbus Group.

Objective: 50 A350s delivered in 2016

Airbus is therefore faced with a problem of rich, but a problem all the same: to deliver all these planes to customers as quickly as possible. In the absence of available delivery slots, new customers have to wait several years before receiving their devices, which, at best, makes them impatient, at worst, risks diverting them to the competition.

The time has therefore come for a historic increase in production rates: the A320 family will go from 42 aircraft produced per month to 60 by 2019. The new A350 should climb from 14 deliveries in 2015 to around fifty in 2016, and 10 by months in 2018. Even the good old A330, with 136 orders in 2015, is once again seeing its production ramp up: Airbus Group has announced its switch from six to seven aircraft per month by 2017, before the arrival of the A330 NEO scheduled for the end of 2017.

Tom Enders: “It will be hard”

The work site may well be nothing short of fun, especially for the long-haul A350. The transition to 50 aircraft produced per year promises to be a formidable challenge, between the industrialization to be carried out at Airbus, and the difficulty of certain subcontractors, such as the French Zodiac Aerospace, to keep pace. “If you ask me the question, yes, it will be hard,” admits Tom Enders. Even on the A320 family, the “ramp up” is likely to be strained, with the scheduled switch from the classic A320 to the A320neo, equipped with less fuel-intensive engines.

After a first delivery of the A320neo to Lufthansa postponed from December 2015 to January 2016, the Reuters agency thus assured in early February that slight delays were to be expected on the first deliveries of the single-aisle. The group acknowledged that deliveries of the A320neo would be mainly concentrated in the second half of 2016, and that they would represent less than 20% of the total deliveries of the A320 Family this year.

Subcontracting put to the test

Airbus has strengths to assert: it has four A320 assembly lines (Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin, near Beijing and Mobile, in Alabama). But the aircraft manufacturer also depends on its industrial partners, for whom increasing production is a formidable challenge. Safran, which is developing with GE, the new Leap engine that will equip the A320neo, the 737 MAX and the Chinese C919, thus plans a hundred deliveries of Leap in 2016, 500 in 2017, 1,200 in 2018, 1,800 in 2019 and 2,000 in 2020. “No part is common between the current CFM56 and the Leap”, recalled the CEO of Safran Philippe Petitcolin on the sidelines of a trip to Mexico on February 10.

The manager assured that there would inevitably be problems to manage on the rise in speed of the engine, as for all the programs, that certain lights were with the “orange, but none in the red”. To support the ramp-up of the Leap, Safran has also announced the construction of a third fan blade plant, the blades at the front of the engines, in Queretaro (Mexico), after those in Rochester (New Hampshire). ) and Commercy (Meuse), inaugurated in 2015.

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